Maurizio Sarri insists Champions League qualification should not define success for Chelsea this season.
The Blues head coach is confident in Chelsea’s ability to seal a top-four Premier League finish, and also keep pushing for Europa League glory.
Sarri’s long-term position remains under threat, but the taskmaster Italian still believes he has taken Chelsea forward.
Asked if it would be a failure for Chelsea to miss out on next season’s Champions League, Sarri said: “No. No, we played a final. We lost the final on penalties.
“We are in the semi-final in the Europa League. We are fighting for the top four. So the season, at the moment, is good.
“Of course we have two very, very strong targets: we want the top four in the Premier League and, at the moment, we want to go to the final of the Europa League.
“If we are able to get to the final, then we will want to win the final. And so I think the season is, at the moment, good. Of course, a very difficult season.
“We lost in the wrong way two or three matches, so the feeling, sometimes, is worse. I think for this reason because we lost two or three matches in the wrong way, in a very wrong way, without fighting. But if you look at the season, we are doing well, I think.
“Of course, it’s only the first step. We need to improve more. We need to become competitive for the top. The first step, though, is good.”
Chelsea face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, where victory would boost the Blues’ top-four aspirations.
Gonzalo Higuain threw a drinks bottle in frustration after being replaced in Monday’s 2-2 home draw with Burnley but Sarri believes the Argentina striker was purely annoyed with Chelsea’s performance, and not that he had been substituted.
When asked if Higuain had been angry about being replaced, Sarri said: “In your opinion; in my opinion, he was really very angry about the situation on the pitch because we were not winning.
“I’ve not spoken to him. I’m really very happy if a player wants to play, wants to react.
“But I think that he was really very nervous for the situation because we were not winning.
“The situation on the pitch, as you have seen, was really very difficult against opponents who didn’t want to play. So it was frustrating, his situation, I think.”