Chelsea's Eden Hazard dropped for Europa League game to manage minutes
Eden Hazard has been left out of the Chelsea squad that travelled to Greece on Wednesday but Maurizio Sarri is preparing to make few changes to his starting XI for Thursday's opening Europa League match against PAOK Salonika.
David Luiz, Mateo Kovacic and Emerson Palmieri also did not travel to Greece on Wednesday, but academy youngsters Ethan Ampadu, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Marcin Bulka were granted seats on the plane.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Cesc Fabregas also made the trip after recovering from injury, but in a news conference ahead of the match, Sarri sought to dampen any expectations that he could make wholesale changes to his starting XI.
"Now it is very difficult [to rotate] because in the first part of the season, it is very important to play with a very solid team," Sarri said. "I might change four or five players, but it is impossible to change every player in the match."
"David Luiz is in Cobham because he [did not play for] six months so I thought it was better for him to have rest," Sarri said. "Kovacic, it is better to have rest with a little injury. Hazard, after the national team and the match with Cardiff, was a little bit tired. I thought it was better to have training and rest.
"Unfortunately, you have to play with 11 players, [and] 17 players tomorrow won't agree with me. There is a match tomorrow and on [the] Wednesday after Sunday at West Ham. There will be a chance for everyone, but not for 25 or 28 players -- the truth is this."
Asked specifically about Loftus-Cheek's chances of starting in place of Kovacic, Sarri replied: "I don't know about Loftus. For me, he is a very good player. I don't know if there is a spot tomorrow. There is in the future."
The addition of Hudson-Odoi to the B-list on Tuesday suggested the exciting academy winger who lit up preseason might be given a competitive chance to impress, but Sarri hinted that the 17-year-old will have to wait a little longer for his opportunity.
"For Odoi, in his position, in the last match [I] played Pedro and Hazard," Sarri said. "I have also played [Victor] Moses and Willian. Ampadu, Odoi and Loftus are the future. I don't know if tomorrow is the right time for Odoi."