Maurizio Sarri has explained the absences of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Marcos Alonso from the party that has travelled to Malmo for Chelsea’s Europa League round of 32 first leg.
Sarri has brought to Sweden a 20-strong squad and is clearly taking this competition and Thursday night’s opponents seriously, but arrives in Sweden without two regulars. Facing the media at Malmo New Stadion, the venue for Thursday night’s game, he was asked why those players had not travelled.
‘Loftus-Cheek is out with the same problem, with his back,’ Sarri said. ‘It’s not the most serious problem, I hope he [is back] for the FA Cup, but it was impossible for tomorrow. I want Marcos to rest for one match. No physical problem.’
Sarri discusses training and Malmo
Sarri admitted it has been a difficult few days following Sunday’s heavy defeat at Manchester City, but the focus quickly shifted ahead to European action. Asked about how training had been at Cobham over the past few days, he said: ‘Not too easy of course but I think after a match like at Manchester City it is normal.
‘It’s not easy to play tomorrow after a 6-0 but we have to play and we have to play well if we want to win. We know that it will be not very easy because we have to play against a very good team, they are compact, solid and usually have a very good defensive phase. We want to win and want to react immediately.’
Europa League importance
It is worth reminding that the victors of the Europa League will qualify for next season’s Champions League. Sarri was asked whether recent results means the competition has taken on extra significance.
‘Tomorrow is the most important,’ he said. ‘Then on Monday, the FA Cup will be the most important. Then we have to play the final of the League Cup, so that will be most important. Then the Premier League will be most important.
‘We need to have short-term targets. Tomorrow the target is to have a good result. On Monday, the target will be to get to the quarter-final, then to win the League Cup. It’s very strange to say it after a 6-0, but we want to win. Then the Premier League will be the target. We need targets in the short term, and then we need a dream in the long term.’
Sarri was also asked about fan behaviour, following UEFA investigations after our game against MOL Vidi in Budapest.
‘As I said last time, I think our fans are wonderful in 99 per cent of people,’ the Italian said. ‘In every community, we have some [that are] stupid, but like all the other teams, so I hope tomorrow everything will go really very well with our fans. I am sure it will happen.