LONDON • Maurizio Sarri has said that Callum Hudson-Odoi is ready to start an English Premier League match for Chelsea and it will not be long before he becomes a regular starter, but has defended his cautious use of the youngster thus far.
The winger, 18, made his England debut in last week's Euro 2020 qualifier against the Czech Republic, and started the next match against Montenegro. But he has played only 119 minutes in the Premier League this season across six substitute appearances.
However, before Chelsea's league clash against Cardiff today, their Italian manager Sarri maintained it is coincidence that Hudson-Odoi's seven starts this season have all come in the Europa League, FA Cup or League Cup.
He has made 19 appearances in all competitions, including the Community Shield.
"I'm really very confident in him," Sarri said. "He has started a lot of matches - not in the Premier League but that's by chance. It's not a problem for me to put him in the starting XI in a Premier League match. He's ready.
"But, of course, I can only play with two wingers. In the squad, we have (Eden) Hazard, Willian, Pedro, so it's really not very easy to start every match.
"Probably in the near future, he will start in 75 to 80 per cent of the matches.
"In this season, he is really very young... He needs to improve more - he has to work every day, and improve the left foot, improve in the defensive phase, improve in the movement without the ball.
"So I think the evolution is the right evolution. Probably, he will play 30 to 35 matches next season."
Hudson-Odoi, whose contract expires in June next year, has been linked with a move to Bayern Munich. The German champions have tabled a bid of £35 million (S$61.8 million) for him, with the player himself said to be open to the transfer.
But Sarri insisted he believes that Hudson-Odoi will remain at Stamford Bridge this summer.
"I think so," he said. "I'm not able to say if he will sign a new contract, but I think he will remain here with us in every case."
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CARDIFF V CHELSEA
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