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Sarri on Hudson-Odoi's England start: 'Chelsea do not have to play Montenegro'

LONDON -- Maurizio Sarri insisted Callum Hudson-Odoi's debut for England did not make him feel awkward about the 18-year-old's lack of Premier League opportunities because Chelsea play much more difficult opponents than Montenegro.

Hudson-Odoi made the most of his surprise England call-up, impressing as a substitute against Czech Republic before producing an assured display as a starter against Montenegro in Podgorica despite suffering alleged racist abuse, earning high praise from manager Gareth Southgate.

Sarri, who defended his cautious management of Hudson-Odoi's development on Friday while admitting he only watched 20 minutes of England during the international break, pointed out that the level of Euro 2020 qualifying is "really very low" compared to Chelsea's opponents in the Premier League.

Asked if watching Hudson-Odoi play for England made him feel uncomfortable about making the academy prospect wait for his first Premier League start, Sarri replied: "No, because I have not to play against Montenegro.

"I think the qualification for the European Championships, the level is really very low. It's not the Premier League level, of course.

"It depends upon the national team, of course, but there are a lot of national teams with a very low level. I cannot understand why there is only a group. Maybe it's better to have the European Cup for the first level, and a European Cup for a second level.

"It's incredible that a player who is very important for a club has to play in Malta and Cyprus, in Liechtenstein or Andorra."

Callum Hudson-Odoi earned his first England start over the international break but has yet to do the same for Chelsea.

Earlier this season Sarri revealed he did not watch the 2018 World Cup because he considers there is "nothing to learn" from international football, and he was keen to stress that his latest comments should not be construed as criticism of Hudson-Odoi.

"Callum is ready to play against every opponent," he added.

When pressed on why he has been so cautious with Hudson-Odoi's first-team opportunities, Sarri explained: "I think he needs to improve more, and I want him to improve more.

"He has to stay with his feet on the floor. He has to work every day, and improve the left [foot], improve in the defensive phase, improve in the movement without the ball.

"I want him to improve because the potential is really, really very, very high. And so it's right that he continues to improve. Otherwise we risk stopping him.

"He is, in this moment, a very, very good player. But he has the possibility to become more [better]. I want him to become more [better]."

Hudson-Odoi remains determined to leave Chelsea this summer despite being informed by the club that he will not be sold regardless of whether or not he signs an extension to his current contract, which expires in June 2020.

Sarri, however, is adamant that he has Hudson-Odoi's best interests at heart.

"Yes, for his good," he said, before adding with a smile: "But also for my good."

Chelsea have no serious injury concerns ahead of Sunday's trip to Wales to take on struggling Cardiff City in the Premier League, though Sarri revealed he has minor doubts about the fitness of Jorginho.

"We have some players a little bit tired [after the international break]," he said. "[There is] a little problem with Jorginho. But we are trying to recover him. I think it's possible for him to play. I am not sure at the moment, but I think it's possible."

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