Ruben Loftus-Cheek stole the show as Chelsea strolled past BATE Borisov with a comprehensive 3-1 win in the Europa League at Stamford Bridge on Thursday night, but Maurizio Sarri insisted after the match that the England international still has work to do.
Loftus-Cheek fired a match-winning hat-trick to lead his Chelsea side past the visitors from Belarus, as the 22-year-old produced a classy all-round performance that led many to wonder what more the midfielder must do to force his way into Sarri’s team more regularly.
Sarri, though, was keen to downplay the clamour for the Englishman’s more regular involvement after the match, as he told BT Sport: “He was at the beginning of the season a very good player, now he is a good player, more suitable to my way of football I think.
“But we have a tactical problem with the midfielders because for two positions we have four midfielders and three of them with the same characteristics.
“They are offensive midfielders, only one has other characteristics – [N’Golo] Kante is a defensive midfielder – so it’s very difficult to put in the starting eleven two midfielders with the same characteristics.”
Asked whether the squad congestion in Chelsea’s midfield ranks meant that Loftus-Cheek would have to wait for more regular game time, Sarri responded: “I don’t know. I think that we need to improve with all the midfielders.”
Aside from the headline-making performance from Loftus-Cheek, Sarri appeared frustrated on the touchline when his side conceded a late consolation goal from BATE Borisov, as the visitors took advantage of some sloppy defending from Chelsea to convert from a set piece.
“When we conceded the goal I don’t like it very much,” Sarri added. “I don’t know why but I prefer the clean sheet.”
The victory on Thursday night strengthened Chelsea’s commanding position as leaders of Group L in the Europa League, as the win over BATE Borisov opened up a six-point lead for the Blues at the top of the group, with three wins from as many games.
Sarri was satisfied with his side’s progress in the competition so far this season. The Italian added: “The target in the short period is to qualify first of all and then to win our group.
“We played very well for 60, 65 minutes – not very well in the last 25 minutes – but I think it was a good match.”
Chelsea face Burnley at Turf Moor on Sunday as the Blues look to continue their unbeaten start to their Premier League campaign, whilst their next outing in the Europa League sees Sarri’s side travel to Belarus to complete their back-to-back fixtures against BATE Borisov in two weeks’ time.