LONDON • Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri needs no convincing about Callum Hudson-Odoi's immense potential, but is reluctant to put too much pressure on the teenager as it could prove "dangerous" for his development.
The winger, who emerged as a transfer target for German giants Bayern Munich in January, came off the bench to score a late goal in Chelsea's 3-0 win over Dynamo Kiev in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 clash on Thursday.
Supporters at Stamford Bridge were chanting for him to be brought on before the 18-year-old, who has not been able to break into the first team this season, was introduced with 12 minutes to go.
"He doesn't have to do anything to convince me. He's a very great player. In my opinion, a player at 18 years old cannot be at the top. He needs to improve until he's 22 or 23," Sarri told a news conference after the match, in which Pedro and Willian also scored.
"To have pressure when you're 18 is dangerous. You can lose (sight of) the target. When you're 18, the target is to improve tactically, mentally and physically. I don't like to speak about him for this reason.
"Now he needs to improve without the pressure of the media, the fans and the club, but he is in my mind for every match."
The win put Chelsea in a strong position to reach the quarter-finals of Europe's second-tier club competition, but Sarri warned his players against complacency ahead of the return leg in Kiev next Thursday.
"Now we have to be careful. We have to go there with a good level of application and determination if we want to qualify," he added.
"If you concede a goal, you can go mentally in trouble. We have to go there with the right level of attention."
In the Premier League, while top-four rivals Arsenal and Manchester United square off at the Emirates tomorrow, the Blues will host Wolves - while also having a home match (their game in hand) against Brighton to be fitted in at some point.
Sarri believes that the next two matches will be crucial for Chelsea to get ahead in the tough battle for the Champions League spots.
"I think that we have two big opportunities - this match and then when we will play the match against Brighton," he said.
"But I think we will be fighting for the top four until the last minute of the last match. Every match will be important in our future."