LONDON (AFP) – Maurizio Sarri has challenged Chelsea to secure an upbeat finish to a turbulent season that plunged the club into chaos and threatened to cost the Italian his job.
Sarri’s side travel to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League semi-final first leg tonight knowing they are five matches away from rescuing their troubled campaign.
The Blues sit fourth in the Premier League with just two games left in the battle to qualify for the Champions League.
Chelsea are two points above fifth placed Arsenal and three ahead of sixth placed Manchester United, with games against Watford and Leicester to come.
They are also favourites to secure a Europa League final berth after being handed a last four clash with unheralded Eintracht.
Booking a place in the Champions League, either by winning the Europa League or finishing in the Premier League’s top four, would be a significant achievement given the self-inflicted wounds Chelsea have endured this term.
After a painful period that saw widespread reports he was on the verge of being sacked, Chelsea boss Sarri has managed to keep his job while guiding the west Londoners towards a season-salvaging finale.
Urging his players to finish the job, Sarri said: “We are fighting for the top four and in semi-final of the Europa League. We have done a good season.
“Now we need to take two very important targets.”
Achieving those goals is likely to be a fraught journey on the evidence of Chelsea’s rollercoaster campaign.
Even now the problems keep coming for Sarri after Antonio Rudiger was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury on Tuesday. The Germany defender is understood to be set for an operation in Italy, having limped out of Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Manchester United.
It has been a baptism of fire for Sarri since his move from Napoli last year and the 60-year-old has looked increasingly frazzled by the experience.
His frustration finally boiled over in last week’s tetchy draw against Burnley when he responded to some ripe language from the Clarets bench with a blast at the officials which saw him sent off and subsequently fined by the Football Association for misconduct.
On that occasion Sarri could say he was provoked, but he had only himself to blame for many of Chelsea’s woes.