Maurizio Sarri admits Chelsea’s Carabao Cup campaign has been “like playing in the Champions League”, as they ready themselves for a semi-final showdown with Tottenham.
The Blues have seen off Derby and Bournemouth en route to the last four, but opened their quest with a heavyweight clash against Liverpool.
They are now about to lock horns with a local rivals and fellow Premier League title challengers, before potentially taking on holders Manchester City for the chance to lift the trophy.
Sarri’s side will certainly have earned the right to savour major silverware should they ultimately emerge victorious, having navigated past such difficult opposition.
“It is very difficult. The level of the opponent is very high,” said Sarri.
“We have had to play against Liverpool. Now we have to play against Tottenham, and in an eventual final it would probably be against Manchester City.
“It’s like playing in the Champions League, but in the League Cup.”
If Chelsea are to continue their Carabao Cup adventure this term then they will need to fare considerably better at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday, than they did during their last away date against Tottenham.
Sarri’s side suffered a 3-1 defeat on that occasion, with the Italian conceding that there are still issues within his side that he is trying to iron out.
He added: “The result was our fault.
“Of course they [Tottenham] are a great team, very dangerous, but we could have done better, especially in the first 20 minutes when we were out of the match mentally.
“I saw my players in the dressing room after the match. They were destroyed. They needed only to realise why the match was so bad.
“It was very easy. The video of the first 15 minutes was clear. There was a big difference in mentality, aggressiveness, determination. It was clear for me and also the players.
“That match was really strange. It was after the international break, and probably we were not able to arrive to the match with the right mentality and focus. It can happen. Now we need to play another match.
“The level of determination now is good. But we still have to solve some problems.
“Sometimes during matches we have not had the right reaction to difficulties and negative situations.
“In the last match [against Nottingham Forest] we were not able to have the right reaction to a positive situation! After our second goal we conceded four shots on goal in two minutes. We need to learn we cannot lower our application in the defensive phase.”