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Sarri targets Europa League final, discusses summer transfer plans

Just one stop before Baku

Chelsea Training Session and Press Conference Photo by Harriet Lander/Getty Images

Pedro’s away goal in the 1-1 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt may turn out to be precious when Chelsea face the Bundesliga side on Thursday at Stamford Bridge in the second leg of the Europa League semifinal. Injury to Chelsea’s midfield dynamo, Kante, and Frankfurt’s offensive threat led by hugely coveted Jovic as well as defensive solidity, eventhough they were thrashed 6-1 by Bayer Leverkusen in the weekend, means Chelsea have their task cut out. Sarri feels the same.

“Kante had a problem with his hamstring, not really a very serious one but he needs to rest for a couple of weeks. So we can try to recover him only in case we reach the final.We can try. I am not sure, but we can try.

I don’t know[whether Chelsea are favourites]. I know we have to play a semi-final and, in a semi-final, you have to play against a strong team. Against very strong players. And so I think that, in a semi-final, it’s very difficult to be ‘favourites’. I know we have to play a very difficult match because, in the last match in the Bundesliga, they probably [suffered as a result of] the Europa League. But tomorrow they will be able to play at their best. It’s very difficult. They have two very, very good strikers in Jovic and Rebic, so we need to be careful.”

News broke today afternoon that Chelsea’s transfer ban was upheld by FIFA .

“I am not able to help you. I don’t know the situation. I think there will be a statement from the club in the afternoon.”

And soon, Chelsea released a statement stating that the club would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against FIFA’s ruling.

Throughout the season, the future of Sarri and Hazard has been a topic of discussion.Hazard has been linked to Real Madrid for ages while every Chelsea manager has had his future up in the air in the papers, but the nature of this season as well as the contract length of Hazard means these questions will pop up more frequently than ever.

“You’ll have to ask the club, or the manager of Hazard.

As I said in every press conference, I want to stay here. I like very much English football, the atmosphere in the stadiums. And so, if I can, I want to stay here. My target is to stay in English football at the moment.I can try with another English club (he jokes) . I don’t know (which one).”

Chelsea achieved Champions League qualification after a dominant victory over Watford as well as Arsenal and Manchester United dropping more points against lower table opposition. The icing on the cake of this season though, would be winning the Europa League trophy and bring in more silverware, as has been the norm and ambitions of the club under Roman’s reign.

“I think that, in my job, the first target is not to win a trophy. The first target is to improve players. And we are trying to do that. In my opinion, some players have improved, especially the young players. Callum, Loftus... not only the young players. In my opinion, Barkley improved. And so we started a work. I think that we had a lot of problems but, at the end, the work is going in the right direction, I think.

We reached the target of the club. And so we are really very happy with this. Now we have to play in another competition and the target is to reach the final – the first target – and the final target will be to win the competition. Our feeling is that we deserve to win a trophy, so it’s a very important match, of course.

We have to play to win, without managing the results. That’s too dangerous (to do). It’s not easy because we play a very dangerous team, as we saw in the first leg. They are very dynamic and aggressive in the defensive phase, and dangerous in the offensive phase especially when they find spaces on the counter-attack. So it’s a dangerous match.”

The preseason this summer will turn out to be crucial given the uncertainty of a transfer embargo as well as Hazard’s future at Chelsea. One way to overcome these problems would be to devise a plan that involves a future with or without Hazard, preferably by looking into the vast loan army that Chelsea owns and uncovering hidden and/or forgotten gems, a la Moses, or bringing back proven academy players like Reece James into the fold.

“Not at the moment. We spoke one month ago about the pre-season, the programme of next pre-season. But we didn’t speak about the market. Also because, at the moment, we don’t know if we’ll be able to go into the market.But I like to play with young players. For me, that’s not a problem.

Every month I have a report about the players on loan. We have 45 or 46 players out on loan. Of course, we need to consider who is ready. But, at the moment, I want to be focused on the semi-final, of course.Two or three players who are very interesting, of course. But we need to consider the level (they are playing at).At the moment, no(won’t reveal the names).

I don’t believe when you buy 10 players. I think we have to buy only one or two players. Otherwise it’s very difficult to improve immediately. I think we are a very good team, and so we need only one or two players, no more.”

— Maurizio Sarri; source:

With Manchester City and Liverpool rapidly creating a gulf between them and the rest of the top 6 teams, Chelsea will need to strategically close that gap.Easier said than done but we need to try our best... but for now, let us focus on the immediate future and make it past Frankfurt to the Europa League final.

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