Chelsea not the favourites for Europa League, insists Kante
Blues star eyes “beautiful” ending to tricky season.
N’Golo Kante insists Chelsea do not consider themselves Europa League favourites.
The Blues raced into a 3-0 lead in Thursday’s quarter-final second leg against Slavia Prague at Stamford Bridge, only for the visitors to pull three goals back for a fraught finale.
Chelsea prevailed 4-3 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate, with Pedro on target twice and Olivier Giroud notching his 10th Europa League goal of the campaign.
Maurizio Sarri’s men will now face Eintracht Frankfurt in the semi-finals, but with Arsenal facing Valencia in the other last-four tie Kante maintains Chelsea will not get ahead of themselves.
“We’re not favourites; we played a good match and we will do all we can to get to the final,” said Kante.
“But we’re not favourites. It was important for us to win this game.
“I think it’s important to be in the semi-finals, it was our target.
“We played a good game, it was difficult in the second-half but we got what we wanted and we are happy for that.
“I think they worked very well, they tried to push more and scored two beautiful goals.
“And after that we managed to hold on to keep the win.”
Pedro’s first finish, a neat Giroud effort and an own goal from Simon Deli put Chelsea three goals to the good inside 20 minutes in south-west London on Thursday.
Tomas Soucek’s headed finish did not dent Chelsea’s authority, but Petr Sevcik’s double after the break most certainly did.
Chelsea are still chasing a top-four Premier League finish, along with their European ambitions.
And World Cup winner Kante believes completing that Europa League mission would turn Chelsea’s campaign into a success.
“We can make the season beautiful by winning the Europa League,” said Kante.
“That’s the only title we can win now, so it would be great to win the Europa League.
“I think at the beginning of the game it was a good feeling to score three goals like this. The most important thing was to qualify.
“We’ll go into the semi-final with confidence and we hope to qualify for the final.”
Chelsea head coach Sarri lamented another slow second half start that nearly derailed the Blues’ bid for European glory.
The hosts were cruising until Sevcik’s quick-fire double that teed up a tense finish.
France star Kante admitted Chelsea have an issue with their second-half performances, but insisted the Stamford Bridge men still have chance to resolve those shortcomings.
Asked about those slow second-half starts, Kante said: “It’s just something that has happened many times this season and something we need to manage a bit better. But we still have to work on that.”