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Maurizio Sarri limps on, his tenure surely extended, at least, to a Wembley cup final this weekend and that daunting collision with Manchester City. Chelsea may have left it late to impose themselves properly on Malmö and secure passage into the last 16 of the Europa League, but at present any kind of victory is to be celebrated by head coach and club alike.


There had been periods in both games when the Premier League side had felt stretched by Swedish opponents who are essentially still in pre-season, but there was always enough quality in Chelsea’s ranks to prevail. They ended grateful for Olivier Giroud’s eye for goal, the striker still prolific in this competition, and revelled in Callum Hudson-Odoi’s skill and pace.
There was an irony that this game ended up feeling so comfortable courtesy of the youngster’s goal, fizzed across and under Johan Dahlin, given how hard he has found it to convince Sarri he deserves greater involvement.


The Italian, who had endured the locals’ frustration as their defence of the FA Cup petered out in disappointment earlier in the week, even escaped a barracking from the sidelines. He remains without his assistant, Gianfranco Zola, who has suffered complications after a gallstone problem, and cut a lonely figure on the sidelines.
But Europe continues to provide some respite from domestic toils. Sunday’s engagement will be a different story.
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