Maurizio Sarri said he left Eden Hazard out of the Chelsea starting line-up against Eintracht Frankfurt to keep him fresh for the push for Champions League qualification.
Hazard, with 19 goals this season, came on in the 61st minute as Chelsea fought from a goal down to draw 1-1 in their Europa League semi-final first leg.
“For a player that has 70 matches in a season, starting him from the bench is a normal reaction,” manager Sarri said.
“We have to play again in 62 hours.”
The Italian explained that he did not inform Hazard, rumoured to be leaving Stamford Bridge in the summer, of his decision before kick-off.
“I don’t speak with the players that I want to put on the bench,” he added.
“He is a player, so I have to do it otherwise I have to speak to everyone. He was a normal way, joking as usual. He knows the truth very well.”
Chelsea sit in the Premier League’s fourth Champions League qualification spot – two points ahead of Arsenal, who could also reach the Europa League final after beating Valencia 3-1 in the first leg of their semi-final.
Victory in Baku on 29 May would also guarantee place in next season’s Champions League.
“We have to play five matches in two weeks with the same importance,” added Sarri. “We don’t know yet which is the right way. We want both – the Champions League and the Europa League win.
“This time we don’t want to just play the final, we want to win it.”
‘We deserve to win a trophy’
Sarri’s hopes took a blow when impressive 21-year-old striker Luka Jovic gave Eintracht the lead with a brilliant header in the 23rd minute.
However, the Blues improved markedly after going behind and equalised when Pedro fired in following good work by Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the area.
They also came close to winning the game when David Luiz’s brilliant free-kick thundered off the bar.
Sarri said Chelsea had turned around their season, following a fraught February which saw them lose 6-0 to Manchester City, go out of the FA Cup and lose the Carabao Cup final.
“We want to reach the final, and this time I want to win it,” the former Napoli boss said.
“Three months ago, we were in trouble. Now we are in the top four and in the semi-final, so I think we deserve to win a trophy.”