Chelsea: Winning the Europa League must be the focus for Maurizio Sarri as top four chances slip
Chelsea are not guaranteed to play Champions League football next season and only have themselves to blame for that.
Against Burnley on Monday night, the Blues had the perfect chance to capitalise on their top-four rivals Easter weekend slip-up, but failed to seize the initiative, drawing 2-2 at Stamford Bridge and have now played a game more than Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal.
So, while Chelsea have been making hard work of securing a top-four spot for next season, they have reached the semi-finals of Europe’s secondary competition unbeaten and virtually unscathed.
MOL Vidi, Malmo, Dynamo Kiev and Slavia Prague to name a few, have been the opposition for Chelsea en route to the final four and the only time the Blues looked remotely troubled was when they suffered a familiar second-half collapse to concede twice against Prague in the quarter-final.
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While the Europa League has become more of a distraction than a reward for many of the teams from major footballing nations, lacking the glamour and reputation of the Champions League, it has proved to be a welcome relief at times for both Maurizo Sarri and his players this season.
After Chelsea were humiliated by Manchester City, 6-0 back in February, the players quietly slipped away to Sweden and regrouped to beat Malmo 2-1 and more comfortably than the scoreline suggests.
And it was the same opposition who helped restore a paltry amount of pride, when Chelsea were dumped out of the FA Cup by Man United.
When Wolves left Stamford Bridge with a well-deserved point, the Europa League was once again a shoulder to cry on, as Chelsea emphatically beat Kiev out in Ukraine.
In the process, Chelsea have equalled Atlético Madrid’s competition record of 15 games unbeaten to give themselves an excellent chance of reaching the final, with many believing it will be an all-English affair against Arsenal, but first they must get past free-scoring Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt, which should be straightforward enough, after all the Blues do have the competition’s top scorer in Olivier Giroud.
Hyperbole of course, but they should be given credit for taking the Europa League seriously and such is its reputation as inferior and mainly for teams with modest aspirations, Sarri has taken no chances and was right to do so such is there inability to secure a spot in the Champions League via their domestic league.
Though many will question the standard of opposition, it can also be argued that Chelsea have saved some of their best performances this season for Thursday nights.
The next three fixtures for Chelsea in the Premier League are by no means an easy one, Man United away on Sunday, followed by a home clash with FA Cup finalists Watford and a final-day meeting at Leicester and such is the unpredictability for which Chelsea have shown this campaign, there is the chance they could win all three as easily as they may lose them.
The Premier League is the most competitive in the world and, while City and Liverpool aside have been exceptional, the chasing pack of United, Arsenal Chelsea and Tottenham have all lacked the consistency to match them, let alone nail down a top four spot.
The other incentive to reach the Champions League would be to avoid a nightmare scenario, which would mean the team who finishes sixth, will have to begin their Europa League campaign in the qualifying rounds on July 25.
Chelsea potentially have six games remaining this season, should they reach the final and that game will easily be their most important of 2019.
Win that and they will have salvaged what has been a underwhelming season in west London.
Source: SportsLatest TS