Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri wants to avoid former club Napoli in Friday’s Europa League quarter-final draw after the Blues thrashed Dynamo Kiev in their last-16 tie.
Olivier Giroud scored a hat-trick as the Premier League side struck five times in the Ukraine to complete an 8-0 aggregate win.
Sarri has yet to win a trophy in his managerial career but Chelsea are among the favourites for the Europa League, and victory would bring with it a place in next season’s Champions League.
The Italian’s former club Napoli are among the favourites and they also made it through on Thursday, progressing 4-3 on aggregate despite a 3-1 second-leg loss to RB Salzburg.
“I prefer to face Napoli in the final,” said Sarri. “First of all, because it means we are in the final and I am happy with that. And second, it means that Napoli are in the final, and I am happy.
“You know very well my relationship with the city, with the people. So, for me, it will be very difficult to play against them in Naples.”
France forward Giroud’s early effort from Willian’s corner set the tone for the Blues, who arrived in Kiev with a commanding 3-0 lead from the first leg.
Giroud swept in his second of the night from Marcos Alonso’s sublime cross to register his eighth goal in the competition this season.
With the visitors in total control, Alonso tapped in a third goal from Callum Hudson-Odoi’s cross before the break.
Kiev captain Serhiy Sydorchuk went close to a consolation for the hosts in the second period, hitting the post from close range.
But Giroud completed his hat-trick with a header from another Willian corner, before Hudson-Odoi’s placed effort put the gloss on a dominant display.
Chelsea will discover their quarter-final and potential semi-final opponents on Friday at 12:00 GMT.
Giroud’s perfect night
While Giroud has started just two Premier League matches for Chelsea in the past four months, he has relished his outings in the Europa League.
Since his last domestic goal against Tottenham on 24 November 2018, the 32-year-old has scored eight goals in seven appearances in Europe.
And another clinical performance ensured he left the Olympic Stadium in Kiev as the Europa League’s top scorer with nine goals.
One-touch finishes for his first two goals of the evening demonstrated his prowess from close range, giving home goalkeeper Denys Boyko no chance.
Alertness and anticipation allowed him to steer Willian’s corner past the Kiev keeper for his first goal from around six yards out.
And his movement created the space for him to connect powerfully with Alonso’s cross to thump in a second from the centre of the hosts’ penalty area.
His final effort, a header from another Willian corner, also highlighted his aerial threat as he capitalised on shoddy marking to seal a “perfect” hat-trick, comprising of right-foot, left-foot and headed goals.
Europa League favourites?
Sarri won plaudits for his style of play at Napoli but, while he boasts an impressive reputation, he has yet to add a trophy to his CV.
However, this was a performance to suggest this could be the season to end that wait.
Despite naming a team that contained seven changes from their 1-1 draw against Wolves, there was a fluidity about Sarri’s side as they quickly stamped their authority on the contest.
Giroud’s early goal undoubtedly helped but their list of absentees, which included Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain and Eden Hazard, made this all the more impressive.
And the emphatic nature of the result will also serve as a warning to the other clubs in the quarter-finals.
Still unbeaten in the competition, Sarri’s side had started the evening as the bookmakers’ favourites and by full-time the odds on them repeating their 2012-13 success had shortened further.
Man of the match – Olivier Giroud (Chelsea)
‘We played a wonderful first half’ – what they said
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri speaking to BT Sport: “We started very well. We wanted to start in this way.
“We scored after five minutes which was a very difficult situation for the opponents. We played a wonderful first half and managed the game in the second half.”
On Ruben Loftus-Cheek he said: “He did very well. He is improving in the last month. He has been able to train after the problem with the back. He had a wonderful match and I’m really happy he could play for 90 minutes.
“His potential as a player is very, very high. Physically, technically and tactically he is improving, he can become one of the best midfielders not only in England but in Europe.”
Chelsea’s second-biggest European victory – the key stats
- Chelsea’s 8-0 aggregate win over Dynamo Kiev is their second-biggest European victory over two legs, the other being a 21-0 aggregate win over Jeunesse Hautcharage in the first round of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1971-72.
- It took Dynamo Kiev 140 minutes to direct a shot on target against Chelsea.
- Olivier Giroud has scored nine goals in European competition for Chelsea this season, the most for the club in a single season since Fernando Torres in 2012-13 (nine).
- Courtesy of his left foot, right foot and headed goals, Giroud scored the first “perfect” hat-trick in any competition for Chelsea since Didier Drogba in May 2010 in the Premier League against Wigan.
- Callum Hudson-Odoi has had a hand in five goals in his four starts in the Europa League this season (three goals, two assists).
Chelsea resume their Premier League duties when they travel to Everton on Sunday 17 March (16:30 GMT).