Maurizio Sarri said he hopes to meet Napoli in the Europa League final after watching Chelsea storm into the quarterfinals of the competition with a 5-0 rout of Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine.
A hat trick from Olivier Giroud, along with strikes from Marcos Alonso and Callum Hudson-Odoi, built on Chelsea’s 3-0 victory over the same opponents at Stamford Bridge last week to book their place in the last eight with an 8-0 aggregate win.
Napoli’s passage was rather less straightforward, advancing 4-3 on aggregate against RB Salzburg after falling to a 3-1 defeat in Austria, but both clubs remain on course to fight for the Europa League trophy in Baku on May 29.
Sarri had previously suggested his emotional connection to his former club would make him wary of facing them, but speaking after Thursday’s game in Kiev he said he would be happier if the reunion came at the end of the competition.
“I prefer to find them in the final,” Chelsea’s head coach said when informed that Napoli had also qualified. “It means we are in the final, that would make me happy and Napoli are in the final and that would make me happy. It would be difficult to play them with my history with the club.”
The draw for the Europa League quarterfinals and semifinals will be made at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon on Friday, and the manner of Chelsea’s passage to the last eight has put them among the favourites to lift the trophy.
Sarri heavily rotated for the match in Kiev, handing rare starts to Ruben Loftus-Cheek in central midfield and Hudson-Odoi on the right wing, and both Chelsea academy products looked sharp at the Olympic Stadium as their team ran riot.
“He is improving,” Sarri said to BT Sport of Loftus-Cheek. “In the last month he has been able to have training. Now he’s improving every day and had a wonderful match. I’m very happy he was able to play for 90 minutes. It’s good news.
“The potential of Loftus-Cheek is very high. Physically, technically, he is improving tactically. He can become one of the best midfielders not only in England, but in Europe.”
Hudson-Odoi continued his eye-catching Europa League campaign with a goal and an assist at the Olympic Stadium, and Sarri was encouraged by the 18-year-old’s display — while sounding a familiar note of caution.
“He played very well — better in the second half because we found the spaces and Callum in the spaces is really a very good player,” Sarri added. “I’m happy for him, but he has to keep the feet on the ground because he can improve more.”