Europa League: Chelsea starts toughest stretch of season

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Maurizio Sarri’s seat at Chelsea has never been hotter, and according to multiple reports this week, his fate at Stamford Bridge rests on how Chelsea does in the UEFA Europa League.

After two days of the UEFA Champions League taking center stage, the Europa League returns with the round of 32, as Chelsea faces Malmo and Arsenal takes on BATE. Both Chelsea and Arsenal start on the road, with the return leg in one week’s time back at home in London.

[ MORE: Europa League scores ]

Chelsea is coming off a stunning 6-0 defeat to Manchester City. In Sarri’s pre-match press conference on Wednesday, he revealed there was a players-only meeting for hours as the players worked to solve the issues in the locker room that has led Chelsea to drop out of the top four in the Premier League. In addition, Sarri stated, unsurprisingly, that it was not easy to get on the field after such a thrashing last weekend.

‘It’s not easy to play tomorrow after a 6-0 but we have to play and we have to play well if we want to win,” Sarri said. “We know that it will be not very easy because we have to play against a very good team, they are compact, solid and usually have a very good defensive phase. We want to win and want to react immediately.”

Meanwhile Arsenal’s trip to Belarus was underscored by the fact that Unai Emery didn’t bring either Aaron Ramsey or Mesut Ozil, as the German international continues to fail to get into the gameday squad. Petr Cech is expected to start over Bernd Leno while Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang and Granit Xhaka are back in the side after missing the club’s last match.

Interestingly, Arsenal will face over two legs one of their best midfield signings in the past 20 years, Alexander Hleb is 37-years old.