Maurizio Sarri has defended himself over his use of Olivier Giroud, who had complained on several occasions over his unhappiness at his role at Chelsea.
Giroud has been prolific in the Europa League, scoring 10 goals and becoming just the third player to achieve that feat in the competition’s history.
However, he has found it hard to be the main striker in the Premier League with Sarri largely preferring either Gonzalo Higuain, Alvaro Morata or Eden Hazard to play the central attacking role throughout different stages of the season.
Giroud scored again in the win over Slavia Praha on Thursday, but he complained ahead of kick-off about what he thinks is a supporting role. Sarri explained why he disagrees.
“But Giroud played the match number 39 this evening. 39! Not number nine.. 39. 39! 39!” Sarri began when questioned. “Starting games with 19 and 20 I don’t remember. I think so [that I disagree with him]. He is playing because he is very useful for us, like in 70 minutes in this match.
“Very, very useful. He played very well, but he needs to recover more than the other players because he is 90 kilos and so after the match, he needs time to recover, only for this.”
Sarri has already announced Chelsea’s intent to activate a one-year extension on the striker’s contract which was negotiated in the deal that saw the 32-year-old move across London from Arsenal last season.
Meanwhile, in the 4-3 win over Slavia Praha in the Europa League quarter-final the club’s star man Hazard took several heavy challenges leading to him limping away from the field after the match.
Sarri says the injury is nothing serious, but it puts him in some doubt for Monday’s clash with Burnley in the Premier League.
“No, I spoke to him at half-time and he had a big knock in the leg. 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],” he said.
“I think [that he will return for Monday]. I have to speak with the doctor, so I am not sure, but my feeling is it is nothing serious. For the physical characteristics, this match was very, very expensive for us today. Burnley is a physical team for the physical impact but the characteristics are different I think.”
Sarri’s side will now battle it out with Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United in their final four games to see who can secure one of two top-four places up for grabs, which would result in qualification for next season’s Champions League.
The Blues are in the Europa League’s last four though, which offers a secondary qualification route by giving a Champions Leauge spot to the competition’s winner.
Sarri will prepare for a semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt, and is planning a two-pronged assault to secure a positive end to the season.
“At the moment we cannot choose. We have to try in the Premier League. We have to try in the Europa League,” Sarri concluded. “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. I know very well Premier League is very difficult, for getting in the final of the League Cup we had to play against Liverpool, against Tottenham, the final against Manchester City.
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“It was easier to get to the final of the Champions League, I think. It’s very difficult to stay in the top four of the Premier League but at this moment, of course, when you arrive to the semi-final it will be really difficult. The Europa League at this point you cannot expect something easy, I think.
“We have to try in both ways. It is not time to choose. I think many give the Champions League too much importance. 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.”