Pochettino eyes Wembley after Chelsea's sleepless night

AFP , Friday 15 Mar 2024

Mauricio Pochettino has urged Chelsea to book a return to Wembley in the FA Cup after revealing some of his nervous players were unable to sleep before their League Cup final defeat against Liverpool.

Chelsea s head coach Mauricio Pochettino, left, celebrates with Chelsea s Axel Disasi at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Newcastle at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Monday, March 11, 2024. AP


Pochettino's inconsistent side host Championship leaders Leicester in the last eight of the FA Cup on Sunday.

With the semi-finals of the competition held at Wembley, a win would give Chelsea the chance to make amends for their 1-0 loss to Liverpool in the League Cup showpiece in February.

The Blues have a largely youthful squad and Pochettino admitted their lack of big-game experience caused some of them to endure a restless night ahead of the final at the national stadium.

"Between you and me some players didn't sleep before the final," the Chelsea boss told reporters on Friday.

"That is only through experience, and living these situations, you can be better. We learn through experience. With pain you learn more.

"To go back to Wembley would be different. Another semi-final would be so good for us. To have the chance to reach the final and qualify for Europe through the FA Cup would be massive."

Chelsea struggles

It has been a difficult first season in charge for Pochettino, with Chelsea languishing in 11th place in the Premier League.

Despite spending more than £1 billion ($1.28 billion) on new signings since co-owner Todd Boehly bought the club in 2022, Chelsea's wait to lift a domestic trophy has reached six years.

Ending that drought would ease the pressure on Pochettino, who has endured calls for his sacking from frustrated Chelsea fans.

Asked what he regarded as success at Stamford Bridge, Pochettino said: "I don't know. It's a strange year.

"Sometimes the expectations are high, sometimes low, it depends on the mood in England. It's like the weather, sometimes rain and sometimes sunny.

"It's not interesting to people what I think about what it means to be successful. If you ask me I can explain the situation, the reality.

"We arrived, working. We are trying to be very supportive in all the things the club are building here. We are trying to add our knowledge to do something different."

Pochettino's hopes of an uplifting end to the season could rest on Cole Palmer, with the dynamic forward emerging as the fulcrum of Chelsea's attack since his move from Manchester City in September.

Palmer scored and assisted in Monday's 3-2 win against Newcastle and has 13 goals in all competitions for the club this season.

The 21-year-old has been named England's squad for their Euro 2024 warm-up friendlies against Brazil and Belgium following his breakthrough campaign.

"It's no surprise that he's showing great personality and character. The way he adapted to the pressure to play for a big club like Chelsea makes him special," Pochettino said.

"Sometimes amazing players need time to deal with this. But he feels like he has been here 20 years. The quality is there."

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