Mauricio Pochettino calls for ‘energy’ from Chelsea fans in semi-final clash

By Sports Desk January 22, 2024

Mauricio Pochettino called on Chelsea supporters to be the difference in helping his side overturn a one-goal aggregate deficit when they face Middlesbrough in the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final.

Tuesday’s game at Stamford Bridge sees the team looking to reach its first major final since co-owner Todd Boehly completed his takeover of the club in May 2022.

Former Blues player Pat Nevin on Monday described the atmosphere at home games this season as being like “a mausoleum”, whilst there was a confrontation between players and travelling Chelsea supporters immediately after the first leg at the Riverside Stadium two weeks ago.

Form at home has been significantly improved in recent weeks after the 11 months between January to November 2023 brought just three victories.

Despite this there has been a noticeably subdued atmosphere at times, particularly when Chelsea have struggled to break down teams they would typically be expected to beat.

Pochettino, whose side’s current three-game winning run in the Premier League is their longest in over a year, will be without summer signing Christopher Nkunku and eight other players for the visit of Michael Carrick’s Boro.

The manager said support in west London will therefore be critical if the team is to reach a first final since May 2022.

“It’s a passport to the final, to visit Wembley,” he said. “It’s an important game for the club, for us, for everyone. We want to be in the final but first of all we need to beat a very good team that, in the first leg, we could not beat.

“We’re confident we can have a very good game in front of our fans. We need to take advantage of playing at Stamford Bridge with all the energy that will translate from our fans.

“We were disappointed after the (first leg). When you analyse it, we deserved more, but football sometimes is not what you deserve – it’s to be clinical, aggressive, to score goals.

“We were all disappointed but we have 90 minutes to fix the situation. We’re going to respect the opponent. But it’s a massive chance for us to go to the final and win a title.”

Pochettino will not be able to call on Cesare Casadei against Boro after the 21-year-old midfielder was recalled early from his loan at Leicester.

The Italian played for the Foxes in both domestic cup competitions this season, meaning he will also be ineligible for Friday’s FA Cup fourth-round meeting with Aston Villa.

However, the manager hinted both Casadei and Diego Moreira, who has also been brought back after a loan at Benfica was terminated, could have roles to play this season.

“We need to assess them, he said. “They have good potential. I think they’re going to be part of our squad. We need to decide whether they will be in the squad every week.

“It’s good news because we were suffering too many injures, so to recover players from loan is important.

“In pre-season (Casadei) did really well. We suffered a bit by allowing him to go. (Tuesday) it’s not possible because he played for Leicester in the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup, but in the Premier League maybe he can be involved and be part of the squad.”

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