Maurizio Sarri has outlined his plans for making sure Chelsea are back in the Champions League next season and identified the key hurdles we need to overcome.
The race for the top four is promising to contribute to a thrilling few months as we approach the business end of the season, with the Blues currently sitting five points behind Manchester United and four from Arsenal, with two games in hand on both teams going into today’s fixture at Fulham.
‘I will be very happy if we finish in the top four,’ said Sarri. ‘I know the target of my club is to return to the Champions League. I was lucky in Naples because we went to the Champions League three times in a row for the first time in the history of the club. I would like very much to do the same for this club.’
Following our 2-0 victory over Tottenham in midweek, and their 1-1 draw with Arsenal in yesterday’s north-London derby, Spurs are only a further three points up the table from Man United (and two points ahead of Chelsea should we win our two games in hand), opening up the prospect of a four-way battle for Champions League qualification.
‘I hope Tottenham will be involved,’ said our head coach. ‘In that case there are two spots for four teams, which is better than one for three! We will see. I understand very well in England it’s very difficult to be in the top four. It’s very competitive.
‘And not only the Premier League. You have to play in the FA Cup, the League Cup. Every match is very difficult. In the League Cup we played against Liverpool, twice against Tottenham, the final against City.
‘Every match is very difficult, mentally very expensive, and you risk arriving at this moment of the season very tired, more mentally than physically.’
However, despite that psychological war of attrition at the top of the Premier League, Sarri doesn’t think that outside pressure will be a problem for him or his Chelsea team, and feels his own personal expectations far outweigh any placed on him by the media.
‘The pressure comes from inside,’ he explained. ‘You can feel very big pressure for a match of Serie B, and less pressure for a match in the Champions League. It’s not the importance of the match for the media. You can feel great pressure for a match that for the media is not important.
‘The real pressure is inside you. I felt very big pressure sometimes in Serie C, and very little pressure sometimes in the Champions League. What is very important is your feeling at the moment.’