Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have 'very important' roles for Chelsea run-in, insists Maurzio Sarri
Academy graduates impressed on their starts against Brighton last time out and their manager is set to give them more game time
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has said Academy graduates Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-cheek will have "very important" roles in the squad until the end of the season.
Chelsea face West Ham United in the Premier League on Monday night as they continue to fight for a place in the top four, and with it entry into next season's Uefa Champions League. A win at Stamford Bridge will move the Blues into the top four at the expense of Tottenham Hotspur, who are not in action this weekend, or Arsenal should they fail to win at Everton on Sunday.
Both Hudson-Odoi and Loftus-Cheek have been used by Sarri sparingly in the Premier League, with the latter making 18 appearances but just two starts, while the former made his full league debut on Wednesday when he impressed in the 3-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion. Loftus-Cheek also scored in that game with a fine long-range effort.
While fans have been calling for Hudson-Odoi and Loftus-Cheek to feature more, Sarri rejected suggestions he had been urged by club bosses to hand both men more playing time.
However, the Italian is pleased with the pair's development and believes they are ready to contribute more as Chelsea also aim to win the Europa League. They travel to face Slavia Prague in the first leg of the quarter-finals on Thursday.
"It's up to the players, they are improving," Sarri said. "In this moment of the season, they are fresh. So I think that, in this moment, they are really very important for us.
"But at the beginning of the season, Odoi had a very great potential but wasn't ready to play in the Premier League.
"Loftus the same. He had only to adapt to my football, to improve tactically for my football. Then he had a lot of problems with his back, and so we had to wait for him. But now they are fresh; they are ready."
Sarri also confirmed he wants to see France striker Olivier Giroud stay at Chelsea beyond the summer.
The World Cup winner's contract expires at the end of the season, though Chelsea have the option to extend that deal for another year.
Asked if he wants to hold on to Giroud, Sarri said: "Yes, of course. I know the club have an option for another season, so I think he will remain."
Yarmolenko to return next season
West Ham, meanwhile, will not see Andriy Yarmolenko in action again this season after the winger suffered a torn Achilles in October, said manager Manuel Pellegrini.
Winger Yarmolenko, an £18 million (Dh86.20m) summer signing from Borussia Dortmund, needed surgery after sustaining the injury against Tottenham.
There were hopes the 29-year-old would be available before the end of the season, but Pellegrini has decided not to risk him during the run-in, instead giving him a full pre-season to get up to speed for next term.
"Yarmolenko is working very well, he has no pain, he is running and kicking the ball, but maybe it will be too soon for him to play before we finish," said Pellegrini.
"The Achilles tendon is one of the worst injuries you can have because you cannot go faster, you must exercise the ligament and then wait.
"To play this season I don't think would be good for him. It would be better to do a very good pre-season.
"If you return after a long injury you get muscle injuries. He must be calm and wait for next season working hard, and we will see the player that we brought because he is a very good player."
Updated: April 7, 2019 03:51 PM