Chelsea knows their path to the Europa League final now. Minus one or two potential hiccups, the Blues have a clear route to the final.
Unlike previous years where a draw was done after each round, this year’s Europa League (and Champions League) went ahead and drew for the next round as well. So now teams know their potential route all the way to the finals.
Chelsea’s route looks pretty good all things considered. There are some potential hiccups to remain aware of but overall Maurizio Sarri will be pleased.
After returning from the international break and playing Cardiff away and West Ham at home a week apart, Chelsea will travel to Prague to face Slavia Prague. All things considered, this was the easiest possible opponent for the Blues to draw in the quarterfinals.
But easy does not always mean easy as Sevilla will attest to. The Spanish side is not having a bad season per se, but they will have regretted going blow for blow with Prague and coming out on the wrong end. Chelsea will want to avoid a similar slug fest but having the away trip first is an advantage if the Blues can get some away goals.
An away trip to Liverpool will be sandwiched between the Prague matches so Chelsea will likely rotate for the Europa League. Sarri will be wary of risking things too much so close to the final but he will put the most focus on Liverpool. He can then adjust for the second leg depending on how the first leg went.
If Chelsea gets past Prague, they will face one of Benfica or Eintracht Frankfurt. Make no mistake; Chelsea and Sarri should root for Benfica in that one. Benfica is a good side but they are not unbeatable. The worry with Frankfurt is the same thing that causes many teams to struggle in Europe: style clashes.
Chelsea struggled against a highly organized Wolverhampton Wanderers side looking for the counter. Frankfurt plays in a similar way but they have the benefit of having one of Europe’s deadliest strike pairs this season.
Luka Jovic and Sebastian Haller have combined for an impressive 41 goals in 37 matches this season. Frankfurt likes to defend in numbers before sending the ball up quickly for Haller to bring down. Then he or Jovic find the back of the net as they do.
That would surely frustrate Chelsea as it will over the Blues little space in behind while exploiting the high line. Chelsea has the quality to get by Frankfurt, but the style clash over two legs is likely to cause the Blues a ton of issues.
The other side of the bracket sees Napoli face Arsenal and Villarreal face Valencia. It is likely that of those teams, Napoli reaches the final. If Chelsea reaches the final against Maurizio Sarri’s former team (and Carlo Ancelotti as well) then anything can happen. Sarri could just as easily have an advantage over knowing his former players as he could a disadvantage for seeing them in a new system.