Maurizio Sarri says Chelsea cannot focus on a single objective for the remainder of this season and must aim for success in both the Premier League and Europa League.
The Blues are still fighting on two fronts as we approach the final month of the campaign, with qualification for next term’s Champions League up for grabs via two routes.
As well as being heavily involved in the battle for a top-four finish in the Premier League, we also booked our place in the Europa League semi-finals thanks to victory over Slavia Prague last week, with a place in Europe’s elite club competition available for that trophy’s winners.
However, it is not just the opportunity of Champions League qualification that has Sarri eyeing success in both competitions, but also the chance to lift silverware with Chelsea.
‘At the moment we cannot choose,’ he said. ‘We have to try in the Premier League, we have to try in the Europa League, but we want to win the Europa League because it’s a very important competition, not for going in the Champions League.
‘So we have to try in the Premier League to get in the top four. It’s not easy for us because we have to play only four matches, but we have to try. I think in the last four, five matches it will be very difficult for every team involved in the fight for the top four, not only for us. I think we can see some very strange results in the last part of the season, we have only to fight and see at the end.’
Indeed Sunday's results, which included defeats for Man United and Arsenal, back up what Sarri has to say about it being tough for the teams fighting for the top-four places, and the Italian is under no illusions as to the difficulty of the task English teams face in qualifying for the Champions League, given the strength of the domestic opposition, pointing out that in our run in the Carabao Cup earlier this season we faced four of this year’s Champions League quarter-finalists, two of which have made it to the last four.
‘I know very well that the Premier League is really very difficult. Not forgetting, to reach the final of the League Cup we had to play against Liverpool, against Tottenham, and then the final against Manchester City. It was easier to get to the final in the Champions League I think!
‘So it’s really very difficult to get in the top four in the Premier League, but in this moment of course when you arrive in the semi-final it will also be really very difficult in the Europa League at this point. You cannot expect something easy, but we have to try in both, it’s not time to choose.’
Following a tough match against a high-pressing Slavia Prague side on Thursday, the next opponents standing between us and another step towards the Champions League are Burnley, in tonight’s Premier League fixture at Stamford Bridge, and Sarri is expecting another difficult challenge.
‘For the physical characteristics, the Slavia Prague match was really very expensive for us,’ he added. ‘Burnley is a physical team with physical impact, but the characteristics are different I think.’