Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 June 2019

Maurizio Sarri says winning Europa League would cap 'wonderful season' at Chelsea

Sarri's Chelsea take on Premier League rivals Arsenal in next Wednesday's final in Azerbaijan

Maurizio Sarri says winning next Wednesday's Europa League final against Arsenal would cap a "wonderful" first season at Chelsea, despite speculation over the Italian's future at the club.

Sarri had found himself the subject of sharp criticism from Chelsea fans during the 2018/19 season before steering the team to a third-place Premier League finish and the guarantee of Champions League football next season.

They also reached the League Cup final, where they lost to Manchester City on penalties, and Sarri said the club deserved some silverware for their efforts this campaign.

“I think we had a good season with a lot of problems of course. We lost two or three matches very badly but we had a good season in the end,” he told reporters as he looked ahead to next week’s match against fellow English club Arsenal in Azerbaijan.

"Now we have the Europa League final so the season is a good season and if we can win it would be a wonderful season."

Sarri has two years left on his contract but is being linked with a move to his homeland with Juventus. The Turin giants have a managerial vacancy to fill after it was announced last week that Massimiliano Allegri will step down following this weekend's final game of the Serie A season having guided the club to a fifth successive scudetto on his watch.

The former Napoli manager refused to be drawn on whether he would still be at Stamford Bridge next season, saying his future was the clash with Arsenal.

He also said he would meet the club's owners once the dust had settled after the final, though he rejected any notion that he would be judged on whether Chelsea beat Arsenal.

"If the situation is like that I want to go immediately because you cannot after 10 months of work have to play everything in 90 minutes," he said.

"You are either happy with my work or not happy."

While Chelsea's place in next season's elite premier European competition is assured regardless of next Wednesday's result, opponents Arsenal must win at Baku's Olympic Stadium if they wish to return to the Champions League for the first time since 2017.

"Two months ago we wanted the Champion League place through the Premier League and then we wanted to win a trophy, so the final is very important for us," Sarri said.

"Our feeling is that we deserve to win a trophy."

Sarri was asked if captain Eden Hazard would be playing his last Chelsea game before a likely move to Real Madrid this summer.

"I want to respect his decision but I don't know," he said. "I hope he will stay with us but we have to be ready if he decides different."

Sarri said he expects N'Golo Kante to be fit for the final, the midfielder having returned to training following a hamstring injury, but defender Antonio Rudiger has been ruled out.

Chelsea are also without their England midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek who suffered an Achilles tendon injury during a Holocaust Memorial friendly match in Boston last week.

"We are trying to recover Kante, he had part of the training yesterday with the group so we are optimistic that he will be able to play in the final," Sarri said.

The Italian also expressed his sympathy for the fans of both finalists, who have to make a more than 9,500-kilometre round-trip to Baku to watch the all-English final.

Only 6,000 tickets have been made available to each club at the 68,700-seat Olympic Stadium.

"The location is a big problem for our fans and so I think it was better another location," he said.

Updated: May 22, 2019 07:40 PM

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