Callum Hudson-Odoi flared up his already hot future with another sizzling performance in the Europa League.
Chelsea bagged three against Malmo to secure a spot in the round of 16, Hudson-Odoi finalising the result with a goal befitting of the young man’s confidence.
Willian’s excellent diagonal pass landed at the silky feet of the 18-year-old, who without hesitation, accelerated towards Malmo goalkeeper Johan Dahlin before finding the bottom corner with pin-point precision.
Six of his appearances this season have come in the Europa League, saving his best for the competition. His minutes in the Premier League are minor in comparison and manager Maurizio Sarri gave his honest reasoning for using the prodigy sparingly.
Sarri said: “We have Pedro, we have Willian, we have [Eden] Hazard. It is not easy for a young player to be consistent with these teammates. Callum has played 14 matches (including the Community Shield and International Champions’ Cup in pre-season). We are using him in the right way.”
“The 20 this season will be 30 next, 40 the next. The club has to decide, if I want Callum on the pitch then I have to sell another winger, then I’m in trouble.”
Aside from his goal, Hudson-Odoi was the standout figure on the night and gave life to a Chelsea team who looked unresponsive in the first half. The winger has now completed the most dribbles in the competition (25), another demonstration of his raw talent.
Callum Hudson-Odoi has completed the most dribbles in the UEFA Europa League this season, with 25.
He's only played 312 minutes. pic.twitter.com/YO0nXMvB1T
— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) February 21, 2019
His fellow Englishman, Ross Barkley, found himself on the scoresheet, bagging the second from a direct free-kick. In fact, Chelsea ended the evening with four British homegrown players having made it onto the field of play: Hudson-Odoi, Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ethan Ampadu.
When asked if any of these could make into the Chelsea squad for the remainder of the season, Sarri explained: “We had a lot of problems with [Loftus-Cheek] in the last two months. He started training with teammates after long [problems] with his back. He can improve a lot.
“Callum can improve, he is 18. We need to find the right position on the pitch for Ampadu, trying at midfield, centre-back and right-back. From now until the end of the season, we need to decide.”
Sarri was also impressed with two of players that he has deployed regularly in Europe, Andreas Christensen and Emerson.
Discussing the performances of the out-of-favour duo, as well as goalscorer Hudson-Odoi, Sarri added: “He (Hudson-Odoi) played very well. Christensen and Emerson played very well. I am very happy with these three players. At the moment, they are ready to play with consistency.”
With the meeting of Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final on the horizon, could these players stake a claim for a starting place at Wembley on Sunday?
By Nathaniel Kay at Stamford Bridge