Tottenham are preparing for a first Champions League semi-final but Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri believes luck is often involved.
Maurizio Sarri suggested reaching the EFL Cup final with Chelsea this season was just as difficult as Tottenham’s run to the Champions League semi-finals.
The Blues beat Liverpool in round three and Tottenham over two legs in the last four of the domestic competition, as well as overcoming Derby County and Bournemouth in-between, before losing on penalties to Manchester City in February’s final.
Chelsea are now left battling for fourth place in the Premier League and are through to the semi-finals of the Europa League, courtesy of a 5-3 aggregate win over Slavia Prague, leaving two paths open for next season’s Champions League.
Sarri insists qualifying for UEFA’s elite club tournament is not the be all and end all for his side, though, and he believes going all the way in continental competition is perhaps not as tough as it is made out, with luck playing a big part.
Tottenham v Ajax
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Tottenham, by comparison, knocked out Borussia Dortmund and Man City to keep their European hopes alive.
“I think many give the Champions League too much importance,” Sarri added. “Of course, it is the most important competition for clubs, but it is a competition with straight elimination, so sometimes you need a post in or a post out to qualify or to be eliminated.
“So we need to play very well but you need to be lucky in that competition. I can understand if you stay in the Champions League is another world probably.
“I have played two times in Champions League and it’s clear it’s the most important competition for clubs in Europe and as a consequence in the world I think, but it’s a competition in which you need to be lucky.”
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Sarri is not prioritising one competition over the other as the finish line draws into sight.
“At the moment we cannot choose,” he said. “We have to try in the Premier League. We have to try in the Europa league. But we want to win the Europa League because it is a very important competition, not because of going in the Champions League. So we have to try to get top four. It’s not easy for us because we only play four matches, but we have to try.
“The last four or five matches will be difficult for every team involved in fighting for the top four, not only for us. So we can see some very strange results in the last part of the season. We are going to fight and see at the end.”
Sarri, who has come under intense pressure at times in his maiden campaign in English football, expects to have Eden Hazard fit for Monday’s clash with Burnley after the Belgian forward left the field early against Slavia Prague as a precaution.
“I spoke to him at half-time and he had a big knock in the leg,” Sarri said. “He told me I will try but I’m not sure I will finish the match, so I prefer to change him because we have to play another very important match in three or four days. I think it was better [to take him off].
“I think he will be fit. I have to speak with the doctor, so I am not sure, but my feeling is it is nothing serious.”