Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri said the Europa League could “be a problem” later in the season after his side began their campaign with a 1-0 win at PAOK Salonika.
Willian’s early goal from Ross Barkley’s lay-off was enough for a much-changed Blues side to maintain their winning start to the season in Greece, despite playing in front of a raucous sold-out crowd in Thessaloniki.
This was Chelsea’s first Europa League game since winning the competition in 2013 and the victory – their sixth in a row this season – puts them on three points in Group L alongside BATE Borisov of Belarus, who won 2-0 at Hungarian side Vidi.
The Blues return to Premier League action away to West Ham on Sunday (13:00 BST) before facing Liverpool twice in four days – in the Carabao Cup then the Premier League.
“For an English team the Europa League is a very difficult competition,” said Sarri. “In Italy, if I play in Greece on Thursday I can ask to play on Monday night, but I have to play again in 63 hours. I don’t know in the future.
“It is not a big problem now because we have played only six matches but in the future it may be a problem. I hope to qualify before the last one or two matches of the group stage.”