One of Chelsea’s forgotten men, Davide Zappacosta, was called on by Sarri to replace the injured Andreas Christensen in the 73rd minute of the second leg of the Europa League semifinal against Frankfurt, which saw César Azpilicueta move to centre back and Zappacosta taking his usual right back position. Gary Cahill, who must not have been paying attention to Sarri’s words about dealing with Antonio Rüdiger’s injury-enforced absence, assumed it was he who would be subbed on and unzipped his training gear but Sarri had different plans.
Zappacosta’s introduction turned out to be immediately positive. His long range effort from 25 yards, in the 78th minute, was barely saved by the Eintracht goalkeeper, Kevin Trapp, with the rebound cleared before any Chelsea player could poke it home. Zappacosta then turned saviour when he cleared a goalbound header from Sébastien Haller to save Chelsea’s blushes.
Zappacosta took to the pitch without any warm-up. But mentally, he was ready. He has barely featured in the second-half of the season, but he was ready to enjoy his moment and make the most of it.
“When I saw Andreas on the ground, I figured I could come on, as the Coach already tested Azpilicueta as a centre-back during the week.
“I trained hard and tried to ensure I was always ready, as I couldn’t stand the thought of a chance like this coming along and I wouldn’t be prepared. I gave 100 per cent and we’re very happy to have reached this Final.”
That’s certainly great attitude from the 26-year-old, who was making his 50th Chelsea appearance, but just the 15th this season. He may not add too many more to that before his rumored departure this summer, but he may yet be counted upon in the Europa League final at the end of the month — the extent of Christensen’s injury is unknown at the moment.
“There was a lot of tension, but also confidence, as we knew that we could do it, even if it wouldn’t be an easy match. We did very well to bring home this qualification for the Final, as the Europa League meant a lot to us.
“When you play 60-odd games over the year, you can run out of steam towards the end, but we did well to hold out against a very physical side like Eintracht Frankfurt.
“Playing every three days, we don’t have enough time to practice the tactics or movements. Those little details are so important, especially when you play in a defensive line, and it requires constant work to ensure you’re all on the same page.”
- Davide Zappacosta; source: Football Italia
Let’s hope Zappacosta gets to lift his first European trophy, putting a beautiful end to the season for Chelsea.