Mauricio Pochettino highlights the importance of desire to his Chelsea players

By Sports Desk August 24, 2023

Mauricio Pochettino has warned his Chelsea players that Luton will get the better of them at Stamford Bridge on Friday night if they fail to match the desire to win of Rob Edwards’ newly promoted side.

The manager recalled one of his early games in charge of Espanyol when he took his team to the Nou Camp and staged a famous victory against Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona en route to masterminding the team’s La Liga survival.

That 2-1 win in February 2009, earned thanks to two goals from midfielder Ivan de la Pena as Espanyol ended a 27-year wait for a victory at the home of their city rivals, announced Pochettino’s arrival as a coach and was a springboard for dragging his new team out of the relegation zone to safety.

It went down as one of the shocks of the LaLiga season in Spain, particularly as Barcelona were en route to winning a domestic and European treble in what was Guardiola’s first season in charge.

Pochettino prepares his side to welcome Luton in rather less swashbuckling form, still seeking a first win under his tenure following a draw and a defeat in his first two games in charge and grappling with the problem of integrating a flux of summer recruits.

Defeat to the Hatters, who last won in the league at Stamford Bridge in 1986 and are yet to pick up a point in their debut Premier League season, would add to the noise surrounding Pochettino’s Chelsea rebuild, with the club having spent more than £350million on nine new signings so far this summer.

In contrast, Luton have paid out around £20m on transfers during the last 18 months, but the Chelsea manager was quick to remind his players of football’s unique propensity for springing upsets.

“It’s the beauty of football. In the pre-season I was talking with (Brighton manager) Roberto De Zerbi, he’s a good friend. I said ‘look, I was at Southampton and at Espanyol. Sometimes you face Real Madrid and you cannot complain, because I know how you feel when you face this type of team’.

“I was on one side, now I am on another. I understand. Sometimes people will say ‘you need to win 4-0 or 5-0’ before the start of the game. But it’s the beauty of football. At Espanyol we beat the dream team of Barcelona with Lionel Messi and Xavi and (Andres) Iniesta. It is similar (to) Luton and Chelsea. It’s the beauty of football.

“I was telling the players today in the meeting. We need to match the same will as the players of Luton. If we match all this, then we presume that we have better quality for us to win. But if not the game can be crazy. Maybe we can win or we can lose. That is football. It happens more here in the Premier League.

“It was the first time the bottom team had beaten the top team. It had never happened in the past. It was amazing, Espanyol in the Camp Nou. It was a little but lucky, we had some help also.

“There’s nothing to lose (for Luton). You go there, we were Espanyol and we said we don’t care about making a mistake. We need to be brave. (But) I don’t want to give the Luton coach all the strategies.

“It can only happen in football. You can see basketball, NFL, you see the quality of the players and you say (one team) it’s impossible, you cannot do it. In football you can shoot 30 times and not score, and they can shoot only once and score. In other sports, it’s impossible.

“Football is about belief, being together and (showing) fight, and then the quality that you have, if you match this, it’s about the players. If you don’t match this, the game is going to be over.”

It was near the end of the transfer window last season that former manager Thomas Tuchel talked of there being “a curse” on Chelsea’s number nine shirt, such has been the club’s lack of success with strikers in recent seasons.

Pochettino acknowledged that the door may not be fully closed on Romelu Lukaku’s future at Stamford Bridge if a deal cannot be reached to sell him before the end of the window, although the player is eager to leave and unlikely to prove the answer to the team’s goalscoring woes unless his relationship with the club improves.

The manager said the club remain in the market for another attacking option but only if a player of the hight profile becomes available.

Summer signing Christopher Nkunku is out until December and the number nine shirt is currently not assigned.

“I didn’t hear about the curse,” said Pochettino. “We need to do something to try to change the energy. I’ll ask the kitman to bring all the number nine shirts and we’ll do some cleaning, energetic thing.

“If we bring a new striker I’ll be sure he gets the number nine to try and change the feeling that this number is not welcome.”

Related items

  • Nagelsmann urges Germany to beat pressure of being Euro 2024 hosts Nagelsmann urges Germany to beat pressure of being Euro 2024 hosts

    Julian Nagelsmann is confident his side can beat the pressure of being the host nation as they prepare to kick off the tournament against Scotland on Friday.

    The 36-year-old is taking charge of his first major tournament with Germany after taking over from Hansi Flick in September and has lost just one of his eight games since taking over.

    Germany have struggled in recent major tournaments, getting knocked out of Euro 2020 in the round of 16 before crashing out of the 2022 World Cup in the group stages.

    However, Die Mannschaft are aiming to end that run, chasing a fourth European title and their first since 1996, with Nagelsmann confident his team can channel their nervous energy into positive performances.

    "I think we're a bit nervous, but it's an important point, we have to have a certain nervousness," he said. "There was such a buzz [in the camp], a bit like in school. It was really loud: 'Can everyone please calm down a bit!'.

    "I look in our players' eyes and see the belief and will to win. I want us to believe in ourselves: we have great players, good togetherness, home advantage, we've had great training sessions and a good mentality.

    "We have everything: we just have to show it tomorrow, and that's why belief is very important.

    "We can beat pressure, and we can beat Scotland as well."

    Scotland arrive as heavy outsiders and are making just their fourth appearance at the Euros compared to Germany's record 14.

    The Tartan Army qualified second in their group after a strong opening to their campaign, and Nagelsmann praised their performances under Steve Clark.

    "They don't have world stars, but that makes them very dangerous," he added. "They work very hard and have a classic mentality, but it's not a kick and rush team. They can do that, but they can play football.

    "We will have more pressure on us than Scotland, and they will want to capitalise on that."

  • Orlando City v Los Angeles FC: Pareja seeking injection of confidence Orlando City v Los Angeles FC: Pareja seeking injection of confidence

    Oscar Pareja believes it is important for Orlando City to rediscover their self-confidence ahead of Saturday's clash with in-form Los Angeles FC at Inter&Co Stadium.

    The international break means Orlando have been out of action since a 1-0 defeat to the New York Red Bulls on June 2, their third straight game without a victory.

    While they sit a lowly 11th in the Eastern Conference standings with 17 points, LAFC are second in the West with 30 points after winning five in a row in MLS play.

    Asked about the value of having time off to reflect on their poor run, Pareja said: "It's important, because with the work we do, the intensity of how we do things is important.

    "We are optimistic after having a refresh when we needed it."

    On the challenge of facing LAFC, the Orlando coach added: "Many teams have challenges with players being away. We are professionals, we expect a team that is playing well.

    "But at the same time, it's a great opportunity for us to play well and raise our confidence, to get the points we need right now." 

    In all competitions, LAFC have won their last six matches without conceding, becoming the first team from MLS to ever accomplish that feat.

    Head coach Steve Cherundolo believes that achievement is the result of a team effort, saying: "I think the team is playing a mature, professional, complete 90 minutes.

    "Some teams have better defensive solutions against us so we don't have quite as many chances, but in every game we are creating chances and we are not giving up many chances.

    "Our collective defending is very good. You're seeing it all come together."


    Orlando City – Nicolas Lodeiro 

    Lodeiro has been involved in nine goals in MLS play against Los Angeles (five goals, four assists, including playoffs). 

    Only Cristian Espinoza (15) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (11) have been involved in more versus them.

    Los Angeles FC – Denis Bouanga 

    Bouanga scored LAFC's goal in their 1-0 win over FC Dallas last time out on June 1. 

    The goal was Bouanga's 48th in all competitions since the start of last season, 16 more than any other MLS player in that time.


    LAFC are unbeaten in four all-time meetings with Orlando (two wins, two draws), though the Lions did eliminate them on penalties from the quarter-finals of MLS is Back in 2020.

    Orlando are winless in their last five home matches, drawing two and losing three while failing to net in each of their last three – they had only previously gone three home matches without netting in their second, third and fourth home MLS games back in 2015.

    LAFC, meanwhile, have won seven successive matches in all competitions, the last six of them to nil. They will fancy their chances of victory, even without home advantage.


    Orlando City – 37.7%

    Los Angeles FC – 35.9%  

    Draw – 26.4%

  • Ito becomes first signing for Kompany at Bayern Ito becomes first signing for Kompany at Bayern

    Bayern Munich have announced the signing of Hiroki Ito from Stuttgart.

    The defender becomes the first signing under new head coach Vincent Kompany, signing a four-year contract to keep him at the club until 2028.

    Ito joined Stuttgart in 2021, on an initial loan from Japanese side Jubilo Iwata, before making the move permanent the following year.

    He made 97 appearances for Stuttgart in all competitions, including 29 in 2023-24, as he helped the club to a second-place finish in the Bundesliga and Champions League qualification.

    "It's a great honour for me to be able to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world," Ito told the club website.

    "Bayern is also a big name in Japan. I always gave my all for Stuttgart and am grateful to the club. Now I'm looking forward to the challenge in Munich and I want to play my part in FC Bayern winning lots of trophies.

    "It was time to take a new step, and for me, Bayern is the perfect club to do so."

    Bayern finished below Stuttgart in the Bundesliga last season in third, ending their run of 11 consecutive league titles, while falling at the semi-final hurdle in the Champions League.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.