Maurizio Sarri believes Chelsea’s season has been successful so far, as pointed to achievements in cup competitions alongside his side’s efforts to finish in the top four.
As they go to Old Trafford on Sunday, Chelsea will severely damage Manchester United’s hopes of Champions League football next season by even managing a draw.
Arsenal and Tottenham are the other two teams competing in the fight for places in Europe’s elite competition, with Manchester City and Liverpool having already secured their spots and focusing on their title race with each other.
Despite Chelsea’s title challenge falling far short Sarri is happy with his first season in charge, as the Blues also narrowly lost the Carabao Cup final to Man City and have advanced to face Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League semi-final on Thursday.
“We played a final. We lost the final on penalties,” Sarri told reporters at Cobham Training Centre. “We are in the semi-final in the Europa League. We are fighting for the top four. So the season, at the moment, is good.
“Of course we have two very, very strong targets: We want the top four in the Premier League and, at the moment, we want to go to the final of the Europa League. If we are able to get to the final, then we will want to win the final.
“And so I think the season is, at the moment, good. Of course, a very difficult season. We lost in the wrong way two or three matches, so the feeling, sometimes, is worse.
“But if you look at the season we are doing well, I think. Of course, it’s only the first step. We need to improve more. We need to become competitive for the top. The first step, though, is good.”
Chelsea go into the match with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side having recently lost away to Liverpool and having drawn at home against Burnley. Sarri’s side can ill afford any more slip-ups in their final three league games.
Gonzalo Higuain was seen reacting furiously to being hauled off in Monday’s game against Burnley as Chelsea chased a winner that never came, with the match finishing 2-2.
Sarri says he is happy with his striker’s reaction and believes he was more angry about Chelsea not being in the lead upon being taken off.
“In my opinion, he was really very angry about the situation on the pitch because we were not winning,” Sarri added. “I’ve not spoken to him. I’m really very happy if a player wants to play, wants to react. But I think that he was really very nervous about the situation because we were not winning.
“The situation on the pitch, as you have seen, was very difficult against opponents who didn’t want to play. So it was frustrating, his situation, I think.”
Chelsea and Burnley were involved in heated scenes at the end of the match as allegations emerged that Sarri was called a ‘s*** Italian’ by members of Sean Dyche’s coaching staff.
The clubs have been in discussions at all levels to resolve the incident and no further action will be taken by the FA, despite Sarri being initially so upset that he instructed his assistant Gianfranco Zola to conduct his post-match press duties instead.
Sarri admitted that he has been called worse before in Italy while refusing to confirm exactly what insult was used on Monday, and insisted that he is happy to put the incident behind him.
“I think that, on the pitch in every match, there is a strong discussion. Sometimes a player against another player.
“Sometimes a coach with the other coach. But in every match, there are very nervous moments. As you know, I made a lot of mistakes on the pitch sometimes in the past. But under pressure, it can happen. I know very well you can say something sometimes that is not in your mind.
“I think that the situation is finished, and I prefer that the situation is finished. I think that the two clubs spoke, and they agreed that the situation is finished. I agree with the two clubs.”