LONDON – Maurizio Sarri is already planning for next season after insisting he expects to remain in charge at Chelsea despite his troubled debut campaign.
Sarri was reportedly on the brink of being sacked after Chelsea suffered humiliating Premier League defeats at Bournemouth and Manchester City, and then crashed out of the FA Cup against Manchester United.
The Blues also lost the League Cup final to Manchester City, with Sarri subjected to the embarrassment of Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refusing to be substituted at Wembley.
But that challenge to the Italian manager’s authority has actually sparked an upturn in Chelsea’s fortunes.
Vital wins over Tottenham and Fulham have kept Chelsea in the race for a top-four finish, and given Sarri a little breathing space.
The former Napoli boss isn’t out of the woods yet, as a Europa League exit against Dynamo Kiev, who visit west London for the last-16 first leg on Thursday, would put him back in trouble.
However, Sarri isn’t worried about the speculation over his future, preferring to look ahead to next term in the belief he will remain in charge at Stamford Bridge.
“It’s not a big problem. The problem is the results. All the rest is not important at this moment,” Sarri told reporters when asked about his job prospects on Wednesday.
“I want to win for the team, for the club, not for me. It’s not important. I’m confident. I was confident in the past, and I am confident now of course.
“We were talking about the problem of the next pre-season. So, we were trying to organise in the best way the next pre-season.
“But I want to think only to our performances and our results. Nothing else. It’s not important if I’m here next season.”
In the midst of a hectic schedule that includes a home game against Wolves on Sunday, Sarri is considering taking a risk by resting some of his stars for the Kiev game.
And he echoed the concerns of Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino about English clubs being at a disadvantage in European competitions due to punishing schedules.
“I think the Premier League could do something more for the teams involved in European competitions,” he said.
“If you play in the Europa League in Italy, after the match away you can ask to play on Monday. One day more to rest. I think that’s really very important.
“For example, when we will play in the Premier League after 62 or 63 hours after the match against Dynamo Kiev – I think it’s too early.”
The Europa League is back Thursday.— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 5, 2019
It's Dynamo Kiev up next! 👊 pic.twitter.com/vcsNzpx2Ey
Winning the Europa League would guarantee Chelsea return to the Champions League next season, but Sarri is still hopeful of qualifying for the tournament with a top-four finish in the Premier League.
The Blues sit sixth in the English top-flight, two points behind fourth-placed Manchester United, with a game in hand.
“I think we can gain the spot in the Champions League in the Premier League,” Sarri added.
“We are fighting. We are only two points away, at the moment, and have to play one match in hand.
“But the Europa League is a very important competition, the second in Europe, an important trophy with a spot for the Champions League. It’s a very important target for us.”AFP