Callum Hudson-Odoi will soon be starting up to 80 per cent of Chelsea’s matches, according to head coach Maurizio Sarri.
The winger started for England against Montenegro on Monday – and was subjected to alleged racist abuse – but is yet to be selected in Sarri’s XI for a Premier League game.
Hudson-Odoi, who was a target for Bayern Munich in the January transfer window, has seen opportunities limited at Chelsea this term.
But Sarri noted the 18-year-old’s age, coupled with Eden Hazard being Chelsea’s usual starter on the left, is why he has not played more.
And the Chelsea boss feels Hudson-Odoi is ready to play an active role over the last two months of the season.
“I know the situation as in the last season he was only 17,” Sarri told reporters ahead of a Premier League game at Cardiff City.
“He played three or four matches. In this season he’s still very young, only 18, and at the moment he has played for – I don’t remember exactly – but 19 or 20 matches. I think the evolution is the right evolution.
“Probably he will play 30, 35 matches in the next season and so I think with Callum we are on the right path.
Love the game!! pic.twitter.com/XMK0BvmeIx
— Callum Hudson-Odoi (@Calteck10) March 28, 2019
“We have to play eight matches in 28 days so I am sure Callum will start in two or three matches. Premier League, Europa League, FA Cup – for me it’s the same and there is no difference.
“I am really confident in him, he started a lot of matches, probably not in the Premier League but it’s not a problem for me to put him in the team for a Premier League match.”
Sarri added: “He is ready but I can only play with two wingers, we have Hazard, Willian, Pedro, so it’s not very easy to start every match here. Probably in the near future he will start in 75 per cent or 80 per cent of the matches.
“He is doing very well, but he needs to improve more as the potential is very high. So I don’t want him to stop improving. He can be one of the most important players in Europe but needs to improve more.”
— Callum Hudson-Odoi (@Calteck10) March 25, 2019
Dynamo Kiev are being investigated by UEFA following alleged racist abuse targeted at Hudson-Odoi during a Europa League game, while the governing body charged Montenegro after Monday’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Podgorica.
England captain Harry Kane has suggested he would be willing to lead his side off the pitch if players experiencing racist abuse felt that was the right decision, with Sarri also backing this option.
“I don’t like to speak to him about this problem because unfortunately I am not able to solve it,” Sarri said of Hudson-Odoi being targeted. “In every country there are some stupid people I think, it’s a big problem.
“I think we need to do something different, probably it’s right to stop the match for 10 minutes in the first situation. For all the leagues, we need a rule that can permit to stop the match.
“He is very young of course. But I think he is really very strong, his character is very strong. I saw him very well, so I think he is strong enough.”
Hudson-Odoi’s Chelsea contract is set to expire in 2020 and Bundesliga giants Bayern have signalled they will try to sign him again when the transfer window reopens, but Sarri believes the teenager will still be with the Blues next season.
“I think so. I think so,” Sarri continued. “I am not able to say if he’s going to sign a new contract or not but I think he will stay here with us regardless.”
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