Sarri: Chelsea risk 'disaster' if we start anxious vs. Manchester City
LONDON -- Maurizio Sarri admitted that Chelsea risk a "disaster" against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday if they repeat their anxious start in Thursday's 3-0 win over Malmo FF.
Second-half goals from Olivier Giroud, Ross Barkley and Callum Hudson-Odoi sent Chelsea through to the Europa League round of 16 with a 5-1 aggregate victory over the Swedes, who also had Rasmus Bengtsson sent off.
But the opening 45 minutes yielded few Chelsea chances and plenty of nervy moments as Malmo pressed high early on, and Sarri warned that similar mistakes against City at Wembley could result in a humiliation reminiscent of their historic 6-0 thrashing at the Etihad Stadium earlier this month.
"I think that we played the first 30 minutes without confidence," Sarri said. "Nervous. We were unable to move the ball very fast. We were in trouble on their pressing. Then a little bit better in the last 15 minutes of the first half and then, after the first goal, very well.
"We started to move the ball very fast and with confidence, very well. But it wasn't easy for us to play this match, so I can understand my players for the first 30 minutes."
Asked what will happen if Chelsea make similar errors against City, the Italian replied: "A disaster, of course. But I am worried about the first 30 minutes only for the offensive phase because we cannot play our football without confidence. But the level of application and attention was good, also in the first 30 minutes."
Sarri has faced open hostility from Chelsea supporters during recent matches and his marquee summer signing Jorginho has become a lightning rod for criticism by association, with his introduction against Malmo met with a smattering of boos.
"I think in the first 30 minutes we understood why Jorginho is very important for our team," Sarri insisted. "We were in trouble to exit from our half, on pressing. With Jorginho, it's easier I think. I hope that our fans will be able to understand that Jorginho, for us, is really a very important player."
One player who received considerably warmer treatment from the Chelsea supporters was Callum Hudson-Odoi, who marked his first start since the close of the January transfer window with a late goal to cap a lively display.
"I think he played very well," Sarri said of Hudson-Odoi. "But I think, also, that [Andreas] Christensen played very well. Emerson played very well. So I'm really very happy with these three players. I think that, at the moment, they are ready to play with consistency."
Asked what Hudson-Odoi needs to do to start a Premier League game, Sarri added: "You need to understand that, in the same position, we have Pedro [Rodriguez], Willian and [Eden] Hazard. So it's not easy for a young player to play with the consistency with his teammates. I want to remind you that Callum, with this one, played 14 matches.
"There isn't in England another 18-year-old player with 14 matches in the first-team. So I think that we are using him in the right way at the moment. Of course, the 20 matches this season will be 30 matches in the next, and 40 in two years.
"Also, I think that the club has to decide. If I am at the club and I want Callum on the club consistently, I have to sell another winger. Otherwise the manager is in trouble."
On rumours that he could be in line to replace Eusebio Di Francesco at AS Roma, the former Napoli coach said: "I have a contract with Chelsea for the next two seasons so it is impossible to have another contract ... I read in an Italian newspaper something about a meeting with [Roma advisor] Franco Baldini but I think for the moment Franco is in South Africa, so it is very difficult."