Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri suggested that Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is under pressure to win a first major trophy as the two clubs prepare to battle for a place in the Carabao Cup final.
Spurs go into the two-legged tie as slight favourites, sitting four points ahead of Chelsea in the Premier League and having run out comprehensive 3-1 winners of this season’s first meeting between the clubs at Wembley in November.
One thing Pochettino and Sarri have in common, however, is that their otherwise highly impressive managerial resumes are missing significant silverware — though speaking ahead of the semifinal first leg on Tuesday at Wembley, the Italian was keen to draw one important distinction from his opposite number.
“I agree he has to win a trophy,” Sarri said of Pochettino, before adding with a smile, “I hope not this [one].”
When it was suggested that he is in a similar situation at Chelsea, Sarri added: “I think it is the same, [but] of course Pochettino is in Tottenham from four years ago and I am here from six months [ago].
“I think that here in the first season it is really very difficult for everybody — Pochettino, four years [without a trophy], for Klopp, four years [without winning anything].
“It was really very hard in the first season also for [Manchester City boss Pep] Guardiola [to win], so here it is really very difficult. To build up a very good team you need time.”
Spurs ended Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the season under Sarri with an emphatic 3-1 victory at Wembley in November, and the Italian revealed his players’ reaction to the loss brought the fierce nature of the rivalry between the two clubs home to him.
“After the match in the Premier League I realised the real situation, so of course now this match is more important,” Sarri added.
“I saw my players in the dressing room after the match. They were destroyed so I realised that the match against Tottenham is very important for the club, the fans and the players as well.
“The match was really strange I think, because it was after the international break and probably we were not able to arrive to the match with the right mentality and focus. It can happen, but now we need to play another match.
“Here everything is really very difficult. If you think in the League Cup we played against Liverpool and now we have to play Tottenham, [then] an eventual final probably against Manchester City.
“It is like playing in the Champions League [to win] the League Cup, so here everything is really, really very difficult. The level of the opponent is really high.”
Chelsea’s preparations for the match have been less than ideal with Pedro, Willian and Olivier Giroud all facing late fitness tests following injuries and Ruben Loftus-Cheek ruled out with lingering back pain.
Cesc Fabregas will also be absent, having been excused from Cobham on Monday to finalise a January transfer to Monaco after bidding a tearful farewell to Stamford Bridge in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round.
Sarri insisted on Monday that he holds no grudges against the Spaniard for accepting the offer of a two-and-a-half-year contract from the Ligue 1 strugglers, and the Italian indicated that he finds Chelsea’s policy of only offering one-year extensions to players over the age of 30 too inflexible.
“I haven’t a club [of my own] so my opinion is not important,” Sarri said. “My opinion is it depends on the situation I think. The situation is not the same for every player over 30.”