Chelsea take to the field in Russia late this afternoon with their Europa League tie against Dynamo Kiev currently sat at 3-0, in their favour. They look set to cruise through to the last 16 and give themselves a real chance of going far into this competition, although there are some dangerous teams left in it.
Chelsea will find out who they play in the last 16 tomorrow when the draw takes place and Maurizio Sarri must go all out to win the competition this year and secure his team’s place in the Champions League next season. The thing is, in the Premier League Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham are all likely to be too strong for Chelsea to compete with.
That may be hard to swallow for Chelsea fans but they must assess where they are as a team at this present moment. Their starting XI is not as good as the other three teams vying for those top four places and they are unlikely to overhaul them despite currently lying just three points off fourth place, with a game in hand.
This may seem a silly statement as a big win over Everton this weekend could propel them back into the top four but for me, they will fall short of finishing in that all-important top four. That is why they should put all their eggs in the Europa League basket and go all out for European glory.
The club have, of course, tasted the sweet success of Europa League glory before, finishing the 2012/13 season with the trophy just 12 months after they had won the Champions League, famously in Munich. That was under the tenure of another manager who was not loved by the Chelsea fans, Rafa Benitez, and Maurizio Sarri would do well to follow his lead and prioritise this competition.
The other big teams they would have to fend off for the trophy are Unai Emery’s Arsenal, serial winners Sevilla, Inter Milan and Valencia meaning they have a corking chance of winning the whole thing and booking their place in next season’s big competition.
Maurizio Sarri has had a rocky start to life as Chelsea manager despite reaching the League Cup final and leading his side to within spitting distance of the top four, some of his decisions have been slated by Chelsea fans. His decision to go with Jorginho in defensive midfield and play N’Golo Kante in a more advanced role has also been slated by the wider media, given the Frenchman’s undoubted quality in that position.
His handling of young talent Callum Hudson-Odoi has also been questioned as he has restricted the Englishman’s game time when many fans are desperate to see him in the starting XI. This competition provides an opportunity for players such as him to get a bit more game time, although Sarri has been consistent in naming an incredibly strong side in this tournament.
He looks set to continue doing this in the next round and this is the wisest possible move for Chelsea this season. Scrap the Premier League and go all out for Europa League glory.