Maurizio Sarri hopes to avoid former club Napoli until the final of the Europa League after guiding Chelsea into the last eight of the competition.
Sarri’s side thumped Dynamo Kiev 8-0 on aggregate after Olivier Giroud’s hat-trick inspired Thursday’s 5-0 second-leg success in the Ukrainian capital.
The Blues head coach spent three seasons as Napoli manager before replacing fellow Italian Antonio Conte at Stamford Bridge last summer.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 14, 2019
With the Serie A side also progressing to Friday’s quarter-final draw, Sarri is faced with the prospect of going back to Stadio San Paolo.
However, the 60-year-old is keen to dodge what he believes would be a difficult return to his homeland and delay a potential reunion until the climax of the tournament on May 29 in Baku.
“I prefer to face them in the final. First of all, because it means we are in the final and I am happy with that,” said Sarri.
“And second, it means that Naples 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.”
Sarri complained of a “really dangerous” pitch in the build up to the match at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium, fearing his players may be injured.
UEFA was quick to dismiss his concerns, saying the playing surface did not pose a risk and the issues were mainly cosmetic.
His much-changed team, leading 3-0 from last week’s first leg in London, showed little sign of struggling on the patchy turf and increased their overall advantage significantly thanks to Giroud’s first treble for the club and further goals from Marcos Alonso and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Sarri dismissed suggestions that his pitch comments were a ploy to distract Dynamo from mounting an unlikely comeback.
“I was disappointed with the condition of the pitch, but for both teams. Not only for us,” he said.
5-0 win vs Dynamo Kiev, good to get another goal and an assist, solid team performance💥⚽️👊🏾 pic.twitter.com/BI6d0xSeVO
— Callum Hudson-Odoi (@Calteck10) March 14, 2019
“It was not in good condition. It was a problem for us, but also a big problem for Dynamo.
“The pitch is a problem if you want to play a very good match for both teams.
“We had to play on this pitch, and so we played.”
— César Azpilicueta (@CesarAzpi) March 14, 2019
Giroud now has nine goals in as many appearances in the European competition, while Hudson-Odoi celebrated his first England Under-21 call-up by completing the rout after left-back Alonso made it 3-0 on the night.
Despite France striker Giroud struggling for Premier League action, his manager insists he is a key member of the squad.
“In the last period, every time he has been on the pitch, he was able to play really very well,” said Sarri.
“As you know very well, Olivier for us is a very important player.
“I’m really very happy for him, and am really very happy with him.”