Maurizio Sarri, whose team top the Premier League on goal difference and kick-started their Europa League campaign with a 1-0 victory at PAOK Salonika on Thursday, had warned after the game that playing in the competition could have implications for his side’s domestic form later in the year, given the amount of preparation time it would grant them for subsequent Premier League fixtures.
Chelsea had hoped to travel back immediately after the match and would normally have conducted warm-down sessions at Cobham on Friday, but ended up having to stay in Greece for a second night. Their return flight is due to land early on Friday afternoon, with their preparations for the game at the London stadium duly set back.
Sarri will at least have players such as Eden Hazard and David Luiz, who were rested, fit and ready, the pair having remained at the club’s Surrey base over the past few days. Mateo Kovacic, who was also omitted for the trip to Thessaloniki, will have a slight injury assessed.
“For an English team, the Europa League is a very difficult competition,” said Sarri after the win, his sixth in as many competitive matches as Chelsea’s head coach. “In Italy, if I play in Greece on Thursday I can ask to play on Monday night, but I have to play again in 63 hours. I don’t know in the future. It is not a big problem now because we have played only six matches but in the future it may be a problem. I hope to qualify before the last one or two matches of the group stage.”