Maurizio Sarri said there is no room for Ruben Loftus-Cheek in his Chelsea team, despite the midfielder scoring a hat-trick in a match-winning performance against BATE.
England playmaker Loftus-Cheek scored his first Chelsea goals in more than two years to help the Blues to a 3-1 victory in the Europa League, but his coach gave a brutally honest assessment of his chances of playing regular Premier League football immediately after the game.
Loftus-Cheek has been limited to just two substitute appearances in the league this season, and Sarri said the 22-year-old is competing with Eden Hazard and Ross Barkley for one position in his team.
Upon learning that Loftus-Cheek had become the first Chelsea player to score a European hat-trick since Didier Drogba, Sarri told BT Sport: “At the moment he is not Drogba, but I hope [he will be] in the future.
‘At the start of the season he was a good player, now he is more suitable to my way of football.
‘We have a tactical problem because for two positions we have four midfielders, and three with the same characteristics. It is very difficult to put two midfielders with the same characteristics in the starting 11.
‘We need to improve with all the midfielders,’ he added.
Loftus-Cheek struck twice in the first eight minutes to give Chelsea an early cushion against the champions of Belarus, and he completed his hat-trick within eight minutes of the second half.
Sarri praised his side’s performance but expressed his disappointment at having seen Aleksey Rios score a consolation goal for BATE from an unmarked position in the 79th minute.
‘The target in the short term is to qualify first of all, and then to win the group,” said Sarri, whose side have won all three of their Group L matches so far.
‘We played very well for 65 minutes, and not very well in the last 25 minutes. I think it was a good match.
‘When we conceded the goal I didn’t like it very much. I don’t know why. I preferred the clean sheet,’ he concluded.