Mauricio Pochettino targets domestic cup success with no European competition

By Sports Desk November 02, 2023

Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino wants his side to convert this season’s lack of continental competition into a successful set of domestic cup runs.

The Blues moved one step closer to securing a first Carabao Cup since 2015 with a 2-0 last-16 victory over Blackburn on Wednesday night, and will host Newcastle in their December 19 quarter-final.

Should Chelsea go all the way, Pochettino would become just the third Blues manager in club history, after Gianluca Vialli and Jose Mourinho, to lead the five-time winners to a League Cup in his first season with the club.

He said: “We need to think that this is an important competition for us because we are not in Europe, and that should be the priority for us, like the Premier League, and when in January we start the FA Cup.

“Of course, we need to think that we can win this competition.”

Chelsea, 11th in the Premier League with just 12 points from their first 10 top-flight matches, sit 10 points behind Aston Villa, currently occupying fifth and the Europa League group stage position, and may need to defy recent odds to lift the League Cup.

Every winner since the 2017/18 season has also finished top four in the Premier League, though Chelsea have reached two finals in the last five seasons.

Pochettino’s ranks got a boost on Wednesday night, welcoming captain Reece James back to the starting line-up for the first time since August and Benoit Badiashile marking his first appearance since May with the opener at Stamford Bridge, where Raheem Sterling fired in the Blues’ second.

Still, the Argentinian knows there is work to be done and a morale boost necessary to improve on their 2-0 defeat to Brentford last Saturday and just one Premier League win at home, August’s 3-0 victory over newly-promoted Luton, particularly with Premier League leaders Tottenham followed by title holders Manchester City up next.

He said: “After Saturday it was important for us to win the (Blackburn) game, to go through in the competition, of course too many (missed) chances, we need to be more clinical, but that you cannot change from Saturday to (Wednesday), and now we try building the confidence.

“Now we’re looking forward to the next round but now to prepare for the next two games that are so important and into the international break.”

Blackburn boss Jon Dahl Tomasson was impressed by his side’s fight against their Premier League challengers, with the average age of his starters just 22.6 years old.

Blackburn particularly impressed in the first half, defending well inside their 18-yard box to deny Chelsea early chances, while Rovers were left to rue a potential Conor Gallagher handball shout that could have been a game-changer for the Championship side.

He said: “It’s true, we always need a bit of luck when you’re playing against a team who is on another level, because Chelsea is of course an excellent team, but still we need to be honest.

“They were better than we were. Nothing wrong with that. They should be better than we were.”

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