Sarri: I never lost the dressing room
Maurizio Sarri rejected the idea that Chelsea's players have started showing him more respect, saying that their return to form is down to an improved mentality rather than a shift in his relationship with his squad.
Following a troubling sequence of four defeats in seven games across all competitions, Chelsea have shown signs that they are regaining confidence after back-to-back victories against Tottenham and Fulham in the Premier League.
Those wins have teed the Blues up for the visit of Dynamo Kyiv in the Europa League on Thursday and Sarri said he was happy with his side's response since the chaos of goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga's refusal to be substituted in the EFL Cup final loss to Manchester City.
When asked whether his squad is difficult to manage, Sarri told reporters: "In my opinion no. Of course the situation is not easy because we are Chelsea, we have to win something, but the players are not very difficult to manage.
"They respected me before. It wasn't a problem for me, the dressing room. We have some problems with the mentality because we did very bad in two or three matches, not the dressing room.
"I was lucky because I have two very good goalkeepers. In the match against Tottenham, [Willy] Caballero did very well, in the match against Fulham, Kepa did very well.
"I am lucky for this because we have really two very, very good goalkeepers. You can see the situation was well managed, I was lucky I think."
Sarri does not feel his players are a difficult group to manage but believes they must continue to improve their mentality and collect positive results because winning is very important.#CHEDYN— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 6, 2019
Chelsea go into their round-of-16 tie against Kyiv having qualified with a 5-1 aggregate win over Malmo, and Sarri indicated that the Europa League is an important competition for his players.
However, the Italian does not see it as Chelsea's best hope of qualifying for next season's Champions League.
He said: "I think we can gain the spot in the Champions League in the Premier League. We are fighting.
"We are only two points away [from the top four] at the moment, and have to play one match [in hand]. But the Europa League is a very important competition, the second in Europe, an important trophy with a spot for the Champions League."
Blues defender David Luiz backed his coach's comments about the club's handling of recent controversies and described Sarri as "a great human".
"You don't change your character because of the situation; you change the situation," said the Brazil international.
"He's a great human, someone with the love and passion with football, loving with people and trying to help everyone, giving the best advice.
"When you lose a game, like we did in Manchester [6-0 at City], no one is going to be happy and coming here joking around. He's a real person, and real people have feelings good and bad."