Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea have limped over the finishing line of the 2018-19 season, dragging their bruised and battered bodies and fallen comrades into the top four and the Europa League final.
Some didn’t quite make it. Antonio Rüdiger and Callum Hudson-Odoi won’t be seen until next season. Some will hope to recover for that final on the 29th, including N’Golo Kanté and Andreas Christensen, both of whom are certain to start if they’re fit. The rest are all carrying a minor knock or seven. After 60+ games, no player is without a bruise, a knock, or just general fatigue and mental exhaustion.
Ideally, Sarri would like to give his squad a week off after Sunday’s curtain call. But Chelsea decided to schedule the anti-Semitism awareness charity match against the New England Revolution for next Wednesday in Boston, and while that ensures that all the biggest stars on the team will partake in the cause that’s so near and dear to Chelsea’s (and Roman Abramovich’s) heart, it does make preparations less ideal for the Europa League final.
“I know very well that my players need to rest, and after four or five days they need to work for three or four days and then they need to prepare for the match. The match will be interesting and difficult. I am not worried about the physical side, I think it is more difficult to recover mentally.”
“I want to speak to the physical staff, to the doctor and then we need to prepare the program. I think that the players need three or four days completely in rest.”
That’s not to say that Sarri is against the idea of the “Final Whistle on Hate”. Not at all. It’s obviously a worthwhile cause. He just wishes the final whistle was more final when it comes to Chelsea’s fixture list, too.
“We go there for a good reason I think, so as a man I am very happy to go there. As a coach, of course, I am a little bit worried because I know very well that the team now needs rest. So it is not the best way to prepare for the final, I think.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Telegraph
This match was always going to pose a logistical conundrum. New England themselves are in the middle of the MLS season. Sarri is hardly the first or only observer to comment on it, even if some reports play up his comments in a rather sensational manner. At least this time it’s not just a blatant cash-grab, like the post-season games against Manchester City in 2013 after a record-setting 69-match season.
Putting this charity match later in the summer would’ve reduced the attention paid to it — it would’ve been just another preseason friendly, full of backups and youth — and the 17 days between last league game and the Europa League final is surely plenty of time to make a trip anywhere in the world. Clubs often go on team-building retreats and training camps in the middle of seasons during free weeks, let alone during a fortnight of no football. The length of time between competitive games also poses a challenge in terms of staying match fit physically and mentally, especially at the end of a long and grueling season.
So perhaps this friendly will prove an advantage in a sporting sense as well, not just in terms of trying to make this world a better place.