Sarri analyses mixed Chelsea performance and underlines Loftus-Cheek’s importance after Frankfurt draw

Maurizio Sarri felt his team recovered from a slow start to control the majority of the first leg against Eintracht Frankfurt and ultimately deserved to take a lead back to Stamford Bridge.

Sarri saw his team punished by Luka Jovic for starting the game with the incorrect attitude, but the response was a positive one and Pedro drew us level moments before the interval.

Report: Eintracht Frankfurt 1 Chelsea 1

We had chances to win it in the second half but none were taken and the boss was left to reflect on a result that leaves this tie firmly in the balance...

‘We made a mistake in the first 20 minutes,’ Sarri said.

‘My feeling from the bench was that we were playing only to manage the result, for the 0-0. We are not able to do that with our characteristics. The difficulty was a mental difficulty I think. We did not approach the match with the right mentality.

‘Fortunately after the goal we started to play. We started to play after 25 minutes and we played very well until the 85th minute. We deserved to win for the number of goal opportunities. We were for 60 minutes in control of the match.

‘1-1 away is not so bad. They are very dangerous at home, but unfortunately they are also very dangerous away. It depends on the second leg. We have to play at Stamford Bridge. We want the final, but we know we have to play a very good match next week.’

Sarri spoke about a fine performance by Ruben Loftus-Cheek

‘He is a very important player. He has improved a lot during the season. When he is at the top physically he is a very important player for us. It’s not easy for him to train with consistency because of his back, but in this match he was really fit. Unfortunately with 10 minutes to go he had cramp and asked for a substitution.’

Sarri explained his thinking behind leaving Eden Hazard on the bench

‘This match was number 59 I think and Hazard also played eight matches in the national team. For a player it’s impossible to play 70, 75 matches in a season. Sometimes Hazard, like all the other players, needs to not play for 90 minutes. This is the first reason. The second is that Eden is usually able to change the match from the bench. For me it was better to start with Willian and try in the last 30 minutes with Eden.’

Sarri revealed when Hazard found out he would not be starting

‘In the meeting before the match. Usually I don’t speak with the players that I put on the bench. Eden is a player - probably the best - but he is a player. Otherwise I have to speak to every player. He was in the dressing room as usual joking. He was normal. He knows very well sometimes he has to rest.’

Arsenal won 3-1 in the other semi tonight, meaning an all-English final remains a distinct possibility

‘I want the final against any team, Arsenal or Valencia. For me it’s exactly the same. I want the final and this time I don’t want to play the final, I want to win.

‘Three months ago we were in trouble in a difficult championship. It’s not easy to react. We were able to react. Now in the last 15 days of the season we are fighting for the top four, and we are fighting to reach the final of the Europa League. At the end of the season we deserve a trophy.’

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