Middlesbrough boss Michael Carrick believes his side had to “suffer” to earn a 1-0 win against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup semi-finals.

Hayden Hackney capitalised on missed Chelsea chances, scoring in the 37th minute to hand Boro a valuable advantage going into the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge on January 23.

His goal came after already-depleted Boro were forced into two early changes, with Emmanuel Latte Lath and Alex Bangura taken off with injury in the opening 20 minutes.

They defended well to ensure they are now one leg away from the final of the competition they won back in 2004 and Carrick urged his side to enjoy the victory.

He said post-match: “Listen, it’s very special.

“There’s totally two sides to this one: there’s the game tonight and what we had to go through and suffer a little bit to find a way to win, and there’s obviously the fact that there’s another game.

“I have to credit the players and celebrate their performance and effort, because it’s not easy at all to beat a team like that with the quality that they’ve got and to suffer the kind of injuries that we had as well early on – as if we didn’t have enough injuries to start with.

“Tonight was a really special night, the atmosphere, Hayden scoring, it was such a good night for us, so we’ve got to take that as a one-off and enjoy that to be honest. The second leg is a whole new ball game and we know what we’re walking into and he challenges we face.”

Dan Barlaser’s long pass played Isaiah Jones in behind Levi Colwill to cross into Hackney, who stuck out a leg to stab past Djordje Petrovic.

Carrick said: “Honestly, it couldn’t happen to a nicer lad.

“He’s everything we could ever hope for in a player – he’s humble, he’s hard-working, he’s hugely talented, obviously, and great to work with.”

Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino believes his side were “not clinical enough” as they wasted a trio of brilliant chances in the first half.

Cole Palmer fired wide just before Hackney put Boro ahead then had two more chances, firing over the bar after Tom Glover spilled Enzo Fernandez’s effort before failing to beat the keeper after cutting in from the right.

Pochettino said: “I think we made some mistakes in the first half and we were punished for that.

“We created big chances and we didn’t score, we were not clinical enough, that is so clear.

“We have to credit of course Middlesbrough, it’s the first 90 minutes in the first half of the tie.

“We are losing 1-0 but in two weeks we are going to have the second tie and we need to be positive we can win the game and go to the final.”

Pochettino also refuted suggestions Chelsea players had been booed off the pitch by their visiting fans.

“The fans were reacting with the fans, with Middlesbrough fans, not with our players,” he added.

“Our fans were fantastic as they support us but I think it was Thiago (Silva) and some players, what I hear is they were trying to calm our fans because I think there was a problem between the fans, not between our fans and our players.”

Mauricio Pochettino bemoaned Chelsea’s profligacy following their shock 1-0 loss at Middlesbrough in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final.

The Premier League side dominated at the Riverside Stadium but squandered a host of chances, with Cole Palmer particularly wasteful.

Hayden Hackney’s first-half goal earned the Sky Bet Championship hosts a slender advantage ahead of the return meeting at Stamford Bridge in a fortnight’s time.

“We had too many chances to score where we didn’t score – that is football,” Blues boss Pochettino told Sky Sports.

“Of course we are disappointed. It is the first half of the tie. We have another 90 minutes at Stamford Bridge and we have to be positive.

“We made some mistakes and we were punished for that.”

Some of Chelsea’s travelling fans reacted angrily to the defeat at full-time.

“If we assess the performance, overall we were the better side, we create more chances, we have clear chances,” continued Pochettino.

“But we didn’t score and we were not clinical and that has happened a lot this season – so many games we didn’t win because we weren’t clinical enough.”

Chelsea striker Cole Palmer squandered a hat-trick of chances as Hayden Hackney handed Sky Bet Championship Middlesbrough a priceless first-leg lead in their Carabao Cup semi-final.

The England international, who had earlier been denied by Boro keeper Tom Glover, passed up three opportunities either side of Hackney’s 37th-minute strike, which ensured Michael Carrick’s men will head for Stamford Bridge in a fortnight’s time with a 1-0 lead.

On a night when the 2004 winners managed to frustrate the side who beat them in the 1998 final for long periods, the big-spending Premier League club failed to find top gear despite boss Mauricio Pochettino naming Thiago Silva, Levi Colwill, Enzo Fernandez, Moises Caicedo, Conor Gallagher, Raheem Sterling and Palmer in a strong starting line-up.

For their part, the Teessiders were organised, dogged and a threat on the break, and reaped the rewards three days after suffering a heartbreaking late defeat by top-flight Aston Villa in the FA Cup.

The visitors’ goal came under threat within seconds of kick-off when Colwill’s poorly-directed header delivered the ball straight into the path of Emmanuel Latte Lath, although the striker scuffed his shot straight at keeper Djordje Petrovic as defender Axel Disasi tried desperately to close him down and caught him in his follow-through.

The Boro frontman struggled on after treatment, but eventually limped off to be replaced by Josh Coburn with just five minutes gone.

Palmer forced Glover into a full-length save as Chelsea responded, but with widemen Isaiah Jones and Alex Bangura – whose evening was ended prematurely minutes later by a hamstring injury – enjoying the space afforded to them, the Teessiders made early inroads.

The occasional flurry from Noni Madueke aside, neither team was able to create a chance of note until Colwill headed over from Palmer’s 29th-minute cross, but Jonny Howson was fortunate to get away with a dreadful crossfield pass which put Palmer in on goal two minutes later, only for the 21-year-old to drag his shot wastefully wide.

Chelsea were made to pay with eight minutes of the first half remaining when Dan Barlaser played Jones in behind Colwill and he crossed to Hackney at the near post to stab past Petrovic.

Palmer had two glorious opportunities to level in stoppage time when he spooned the ball over the top after Glover had spilled Enzo Fernandez’s shot from distance, and then failed to beat the keeper after cutting inside from the right.

The visitors remained patient on their return but largely played in front of Boro, who looked comfortable in their shape as they protected a precious advantage with little fuss.

Madueke headed straight at Glover from Fernandez’s 53rd-minute cross and then flashed the ball dangerously across goal after worming his way in from the right, and Gallagher fired wide on the turn eight minutes later amid relentless pressure.

Mykhailo Mudryk and Armando Broja were introduced with little sign of an equaliser imminent and after Barlaser had shot high and wide from a pacy counter-attack, Glover needed two attempts to collect Mudryk’s 73rd-minute attempt.

However, that was as good as it got for Pochettino’s misfiring side, who have work to do on home soil in the deciding leg.

Mauricio Pochettino urged his Chelsea players to free themselves of the burden of needing to reach the Carabao Cup final and instead prioritise enjoying Tuesday’s semi-final first leg against Middlesbrough.

The game at the Riverside could see Pochettino’s team put one foot in the club’s first major final since 2021 and place them on course to crown the manager’s first season in charge with silverware.

Chelsea have endured a disjointed six months since the Argentinian was appointed, with an expensively-assembled squad taking longer than hoped to acclimatise to new surroundings.

Pochettino fielded the club’s youngest-ever Premier League starting XI during the 2-1 home win against Crystal Palace in December, with an average age of just over 23, and a lack of senior experience has seemingly been a factor in the team being slow to find its groove.

Michael Carrick’s Boro are currently 12th in the Championship, two places above Preston who lost 4-0 at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.

Chelsea were slow to ignite against second-tier opposition, taking until the 58th minute to break the deadlock after a solid first half that yielded few chances.

Pochettino warned against a similarly languid start on Tuesday night, but gave his young side licence to find the joy in the occasion.

“The most important thing is we need to enjoy the semi-final, not to feel like it’s compulsory for us to be in the final,” he said. “Football is not about that. You cannot play if you feel pressure and you don’t feel fresh in your mind.

“If you feel it’s compulsory (to win), always with some restriction – you need to take the semi-final as a great opportunity to enjoy playing football, performing well, running, being aggressive, being all together. Not to feel it’s compulsory to go to the final. You start to limit yourself.”

Chelsea have won four of their last five games in all competitions including the penalty shoot-out victory against Newcastle in December that set up Tuesday’s meeting on Teesside.

Pochettino hopes victory in the Carabao Cup final on February 25 could help engineer the chemistry the club need in order to succeed.

“One of the most important things is to create this chemistry between us (club staff),” he said. “We are maybe 120 people (at the club) seeing us every single day, it’s so important to work well together.

“And then the players, they need to trust. Always it’s a process. When there are so many new players on the team, in some ways it’s good, but it’s also about creating a chemistry. That is not easy. We need time.

“We don’t know if it’s two or three months, or six months or one season.

“We need to feel the trust, feel the confidence, to care for your team-mate. You are going to be there if something goes wrong.”

Pochettino added he does not see his apparent lack of aggression in the dugout or before the media as a problem as he seeks to improve his team’s competitiveness.

“One (important) thing is to be polite, empathise with people,” he said. “I don’t need to be aggressive. Why do I need to be aggressive? I don’t need to act.

“How you are as a coach, you translate your stamina, translate the way you want to play, you are aggressive during training sessions, in the way you approach players in the meetings. It doesn’t mean that after, outside, you have to be the same way.”

Mauricio Pochettino warned his Chelsea players they must be “clever” in playing without VAR when they meet Middlesbrough in Tuesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at the Riverside.

Stadiums outside of the Premier League are typically not fitted with the technology required for the video assistant referee and so Pochettino’s side will take on Championship Boro with only the on-field officials in place.

Chelsea took part in perhaps VAR’s most controversial fixture this season when they won 4-1 at Tottenham in November, a game that featured nine video interventions including five disallowed goals and two red cards shown to Spurs players.

There were a total of 21 minutes of time added on, despite the ball only actually being in play for 43 per cent of the match.

It will be a different proposition for the team on Teesside. Chelsea have the youngest squad in the league this season with an average age of just over 23, many of whom turned professional around the time of the widespread implementation of VAR by Europe’s top-flight leagues in 2018.

Pochettino said his players must prepare to be cautious in the face of unfamiliar circumstances.

“There’s no VAR,” he said. “That is a thing we need to be careful of. Our normal attitude is to play with VAR. We need to be cautious of that.

“We need to be in a different way in our approach. We need to change. Now, it’s just the referee that is going to decide, we need to be cautious.

“It’s a different game whether you play with or without VAR. I don’t say it’s better or worse, but it’s a different game. We need to be clever in this way.”

Chelsea are looking to put one foot into their first major final since they won the World Club Cup in 2021, months after lifting the Champions League trophy in Porto.

They face a Boro side – managed by former Manchester United and England midfielder Michael Carrick – currently 12th in the Championship, having lost 1-0 at home to Aston Villa in the FA Cup on Saturday.

“To spend all our energy (on Tuesday) is the most important thing,” said Pochettino.

“Not to go there and think ‘OK, we have the second leg after to play just in case (we lose)’.

“No, (Tuesday) is the most important game and we need to come back afterwards with a victory and to finish at Stamford Bridge.

“It’s going to be tough. The game against Aston Villa, they lost but they could have won. It’s a good team with great ideas. It’s true they’ve changed their system.

“They played the season in a 4-2-3-1. We know they can use this or a different system. They have good players, a good coach. It’s going to be tough.”

Pochettino will be without Christopher Nkunku – who is out with a hip injury – and Nicolas Jackson, away representing Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations, meaning another start is likely for Armando Broja after his goal in the 4-0 cup win over Preston on Saturday.

The January transfer window gives clubs an opportunity to reshape their squad for the second half of the season or for players to take on fresh challenges. Here, the PA news agency looks at who is making some of the headlines.

Manchester United

After performing way below expectations during the first half of the campaign, the need for a squad refresh at Old Trafford is clear. Primarily, Erik Ten Hag would seem to require a forward to give the attack more of a cutting edge and a defender, where he has not settled on a preferred centre-back pairing. New faces would also give the place a lift in general but some players may need to be moved on first. The futures of Rafael Varane and Casemiro are uncertain while Anthony Martial is again being linked with a move away. Outcast Jadon Sancho appears set for a loan move to former club Borussia Dortmund.


The Stamford Bridge outfit have spent more than £1billion on transfer fees over the past 18 months but results this season indicate they have not yet got things right. Bringing a centre forward would appear to be a necessity for manager Mauricio Pochettino but the Londoners also need to give serious thought to balancing the books. Outgoings are likely with rumours abounding over the future of Conor Gallagher, despite some impressive recent performances. With his contract due to expire in 2025, the England midfielder could be let go for around £50million.

Kalvin Phillips

Phillips has failed to establish himself at Manchester City since his £42million switch from Leeds in the summer of 2022. Injuries curtailed his involvement last season and, with so much quality in Pep Guardiola’s squad, even substitute appearances have been few and far between. As Euro 2024 approaches, Phillips may have to move now to ensure he stays in the England picture. Newcastle are apparently keen but there has also been reported interest from Juventus.

Jordan Henderson

The former Liverpool captain could be on the move again after reports emerged over the weekend that he would like to cut short his stay in Saudi Arabia, where he signed a three-year contract with Al-Ettifaq amid much controversy last summer. At 33 and still firmly in the England plans, Henderson could be an attractive proposition for many clubs based purely on football terms, but the financial obstacles to bringing him back to Europe could be significant. It remains to be seen if genuine interest emerges but a loan move could be a possibility. A return to Anfield would seem unlikely with Liverpool’s midfield having been rebuilt since his departure.

Ivan Toney

The England striker is set to return to action this month as his eight-month ban for multiple breaches of betting regulations comes to an end. Given their poor form of late, Brentford will undoubtedly welcome the striker back with open arms and he has said he is keen to repay the club for their support during his suspension. However, his value remains high and with the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea both looking for goalscorers, potentially head-turning approaches are more than possible.

Mauricio Pochettino warned his Chelsea players they will come unstuck in their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Middlesbrough if they begin the game as they did Saturday’s FA Cup meeting with Preston.

The Sky Bet Championship side did a comfortable job of containing the Blues during the first half at Stamford Bridge, with the hosts displaying little attacking threat against a team currently 14th in the second tier, before clicking into gear after the break to claim a 4-0 win.

Three goals in 11 second-half minutes from Armando Broja, Thiago Silva and Raheem Sterling ultimately broke the resolve of Ryan Lowe’s side, before Enzo Fernandez added a fourth in the final moments.

It was a far cry from the stolid performance given in the first 45 minutes, with home supporters forced to endure another listless display in the final third, where Chelsea’s build-up play typically broke down.

And Pochettino said a repeat performance at the Riverside against Michael Carrick’s team on Tuesday could see his side miss out on the opportunity to claim their first trophy since 2021.

“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “Middlesbrough is a very good team that we need to respect. (Saturday) was a great example that we need to respect the opponent if we want to beat them.

“If we start the game like (against Preston), we will find it difficult. We need to use this as an example that we need to start like we played the second half.

“We need to be respectful, not to approach the game showing not the right attitude. (The first half) upset me, but the players were disappointed also at half-time. The attitude was completely different in the second half.”

Chelsea last lifted silverware in December 2021 when they beat Brazilian side Palmeiras to win the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, seven months after victory in the Champions League final against Manchester City in Porto.

Pochettino said he is not allowing his players to think about the Carabao Cup final at Wembley while there is still a final hurdle to clear.

“I don’t want to think on (the final),” he said. “I prefer to think only about Middlesbrough. I know that it’s important for the club and for this team because it’s going to be a boost of energy if we get to the final.

“But we need to go step by step because if we think too much long-term, even if it’s only two months, I think we will expend energy and we will be not right.

“What the group needs is to build their confidence step by step. (Saturday) is a good example, in a good way but also not in a good way. We need to realise that on Tuesday we need to play 90 minutes like we played in the second half.”

Chelsea’s Sam Kerr has sustained an anterior cruciate ligament injury during the club’s warm weather training in Morocco.

The Blues and Australia striker will begin rehabilitation with the club’s medical team and is likely to be out for an extended period.

Kerr’s injury is a big loss to Emma Hayes’ side who are looking to win their fourth successive Women’s Super League title.

The Matildas captain has scored four goals in eight games for the Blues in the WSL this season and she has dominated in the Champions League, scoring five goals in four.

Middlesbrough boss Michael Carrick is hopeful his side can take the “positive experiences” from their FA Cup third-round loss into their Carabao Cup semi-final against Chelsea.

Boro were knocked out of the FA Cup by Matty Cash’s late strike in the 87th minute, which took a deflection into the bottom corner.

However, Boro’s attention quickly turns to the Carabao Cup, where they come up against Premier League Chelsea at the Riverside on Tuesday and Carrick hopes his players can take inspiration from their performance against Aston Villa.

He said post-match: “The boys are disappointed, which is good that they’re disappointed.

“It’s not an acceptance of ‘we’ve got beat’, it shows to me, more importantly, how much they felt they were right in the game. That’ll help us.

“We’ve got a lot of young boys in there that are learning, developing and experiences like that and the positive experiences we’ll take from it are no end for Tuesday hopefully and to the end of the season.”

Two games against Chelsea stand in the way of Boro reaching the final of the Carabao Cup, which they won in 2004, and Carrick insists his side are already relishing the test against the Blues.

“I won’t have to lift them (for the Chelsea match),” he added.

“It’s a huge game for us obviously, for each individual it’s a massive game, but for us collectively it’s a massive game.

“There won’t be any issues with recovery or motivation, my job’s already done for that one, they’ve done it themselves by getting into a semi-final.

“It’s a different game completely in terms of tactically and the dangers Chelsea have got, we’ll obviously have to adapt and look forward to that.

“They’re dangerous, at any point they can change a game, we know that.”

The 1-0 victory on Saturday night saw Aston Villa break their poor FA Cup run to progress to the fourth round for the first time since 2016.

Their best chances came from a succession of corners in the second half where goalkeeper Tom Glover pulled off an excellent save to deny John McGinn before Ezri Konsa’s header smashed off the inside of the post and Alex Moreno blasted the ball over the bar from close range.

The winning moment fell to Cash who struck from outside of the box to beat Glover and he revealed it was something he had worked on in training.

He told VillaTV: “I think I’ve worked closely on it in training, out of the box shooting and trying to keep the ball on target, and that’s all you can do.

“Obviously got a lucky deflection but I’m delighted it’s gone in, I’m really happy to get a goal.

“Since I’ve been here I haven’t progressed through to the next round, we made it clear before the game we wanted to do that and we’re obviously delighted to get into the fourth round.”

Mauricio Pochettino praised Armando Broja as one of the most promising young strikers in Europe after his goal helped Chelsea to a 4-0 FA Cup third-round win over Preston.

The 22-year-old started in place of Nicolas Jackson, who is away at the Africa Cup of Nations, and netted his team’s opening goal early in the second half at Stamford Bridge.

Preston had done a fine job in the first period of containing Chelsea, who lacked cutting edge to go with their domination of the ball, but Broja’s strike was the first of three in an 11-minute spell in the second half.

Will Keane was hounded off the ball inside his own box by Mykhailo Mudryk, who laid it back for Malo Gusto to cross and Broja headed in.

Thiago Silva then nodded in a second before Raheem Sterling quickly lashed a free-kick beyond goalkeeper Freddie Woodman.

Enzo Fernandez knocked in a fourth near the end as the gulf to Ryan Lowe’s side – 14th in the Championship – finally showed.

Pochettino praised the contribution of Broja, who returned to fitness in September after nine months out with an ACL injury, and hinted there is more to come from the Albanian striker.

“It was really important for him,” he said. “I need to be honest, he needs to use this type of game to score and to feel the net and to improve. Improve not only in his fitness but his body language also. He needs to step up and to go forward and to move. He needs to smile more and be more positive.

“The potential is amazing. We’re talking about one of the young strikers in England and in Europe with most potential. But the problem now is he needs to push himself, and we’re going to try to help him to realise that never it is enough.

“He was nearly one year away (injured) and of course now he needs time. It’s not easy for him to perform and to be at the level we expect. Our expectation is massive and we really believe in him. We’re going to push him to improve every day.

“I said to him smile. Always we joke about how he needs to smile, to laugh, to put inside himself more good energy and be more happy, a happy boy.”

Preston boss Lowe reflected on a game that got away from his side in the second half after a promising start.

“The three goals in (11) minutes really hurt us,” he said. “I think for large parts of that game, before the 58th minute when they scored, we were fantastic.

“It is disappointing to lose and I don’t think the result reflects the performance, but the fact is they have good quality players who can put the ball in the back of the net.

“I thought our lads were excellent. They gave it their all and that’s the biggest thing I am pleased about.”

Chelsea scored three times in 11 second-half minutes to ease into the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 4-0 win over Preston at Stamford Bridge.

A frustrating showing from Mauricio Pochettino’s side, in which they hogged the ball throughout the first half but carved few openings, burst to life 13 minutes after the break with Armando Broja heading in his second goal of the season from Malo Gusto’s cross.

That was followed by two in rapid succession, first from substitute Thiago Silva, who nodded in from Cole Palmer’s corner, then another when Raheem Sterling whacked a free-kick beyond the dive of goalkeeper Freddie Woodman, as Preston’s accomplished first-half defensive showing faded into memory.

Enzo Fernandez tapped in right at the end from a yard out, a final reminder of the gulf to Ryan Lowe’s side who are 14th in the Championship.

Sterling had had the game’s first chance, shooting towards Woodman’s top corner after 17 minutes, his effort turned behind at the near post. Moments later Palmer should have opened the scoring when he beat the Preston offside trap from Mykhailo Mudryk’s lofted pass and tried to lift the ball into the goal, but saw his dinked attempt drop inches wide.

Preston contained Chelsea well for the opening half-hour and carved an opening of their own, Milutin Osmajic darting into the box from a headed flick-on and attempting a finish across Djordje Petrovic, though it was light work for the goalkeeper to drop to his right and save. Will Keane’s scuffed shot from the edge of the box was fielded with similar ease.

Fernandez might have done better when he flung his head at Sterling’s deflected cross, in the end an easy catch for Woodman as a frustrating first half stubbornly failed to ignite.

Pochettino named a near full-strength side, the only surprise a first senior start at right-back for academy graduate Alfie Gilchrist. The 20-year-old acquitted himself well, willing to show for the ball and a composed defensive presence, but his teammates on the whole delivered as drab and uninspiring a 45 minutes as home supporters have witnessed this season.

Much of Chelsea’s problem under Pochettino has stemmed from players being too static when in possession, rendering attacking moves easy to anticipate for opposition defenders. Here in the first half, Palmer and Fernandez showed themselves again to be excellent passers of the ball, but with too little movement the play became predictable.

It was not a surprise then that the opening goal came from a Preston mistake. Keane was caught in possession inside his own penalty area, and the lively Mudryk hounded him off the ball. He knocked it back to Gusto, who whipped in a superb cross met by the head of Broja, stealing in ahead of Liam Lindsay to glance it into the far corner to the home fans’ audible relief.

Broja might and perhaps ought to have made it two, meeting Mudryk’s ball in and directing a near identical header an inch over Woodman’s crossbar, as Chelsea finally asserted their superior class.

A second goal though was not long in coming. No sooner had Silva emerged from the bench to an uproarious ovation from around the ground than he headed in for 2-0, rising unchallenged to thump Palmer’s header in at the near post.

Sterling’s goal to make it three was a peach, curling a free-kick into the top corner after Palmer was felled on the edge of the box, before a ludicrously drawn out VAR check confirmed a fourth from Fernandez at the end.

Mauricio Pochettino said he was “over the moon” to have Diego Maradona present the day his Tottenham team beat Liverpool 4-1 in 2017 to give him his fondest memory of Wembley.

Spurs played for over a season and a half at the national stadium after White Hart Lane was demolished at the end of the 2016-17 season to make way for the club’s new ground.

On Saturday, the manager leads his current side Chelsea on the first step to a possible return when Preston visit Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup third round.

In all Pochettino managed Tottenham in 33 Premier League matches at Wembley as well as the greater part of three Champions League campaigns.

But he said it was a thumping win against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in October 2017 that gave him his finest day at the stadium.

“One of the best memories was the 4-1 victory against Liverpool,” he said. “Diego Maradona was in the dressing room before the game. I wanted to introduce the team because it was a great opportunity.

“That was a special day, we had Kobe Bryant with us as well. When you feel special people with you, with the energy and the charisma. They helped us to win the game and perform really well.

“I was over the moon. To have Maradona, to play in the way that we played, it was an amazing afternoon.”

The win against the Reds, earned via two goals from Harry Kane and one each from Dele Alli and Son Heung-min, was Spurs’ fourth in a row in the league and saw them consolidate their place in the top four.

They went on to finish third before embarking the following season on a memorable run to the Champions League final in Madrid, where Klopp’s side got revenge for their Wembley loss with a 2-0 victory.

Yet Pochettino retains a nostalgia for the stadium, in part thanks to a further meeting for himself and assistant Jesus Perez with Maradona the night after the win in 2017, where they reminisced about their brief time together playing for Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina.

“Afterwards (the next day) we had the FIFA Best awards (in London),” he said. “After the gala, (former Spurs players and Argentina international) Ossie Ardiles said ‘Diego wants a Tottenham jacket’. We asked the club and I put it in the boot of the car with the driver.

“Diego called me and said ‘where are you – come to my hotel’. I said no it’s late, tomorrow we have training. Jesus said it was his only opportunity to see Diego.

“We went to the hotel and arrived with the jacket. He said to Jesus ‘sit with me – when I was at Newel’s Old Boys, he (Pochettino) was a kid, 17 years old, he was like my slave. I asked for water, he brought me water’.

“I said Diego, it wasn’t like this,” Pochettino joked.

“It was really special. We finished at one, two o’clock talking about football. Always we are going to miss Maradona. He was the best.”

Mauricio Pochettino hopes Chelsea can use the FA Cup to qualify for Europe next season despite their indifferent Premier League form.

The Blues host Preston at Stamford Bridge in the third round on Saturday and will be looking for respite for what has been a mixed league campaign during the manager’s first six months in charge.

They currently sit 10th, with an 11-point gap to make up on fifth and what would be a guaranteed spot in the Europa League.

A successful cup run culminating in victory in the Wembley final in May would earn them a place in the competition next term, whilst they will also be looking to secure a back-up spot in the Conference League by winning the Carabao Cup.

Pochettino’s side face Middlesbrough in the semi-final of that competition over two legs beginning on Tuesday, with the second leg set for January 23.

But with little sign so far of the consistency that will be required over the second half of the season to qualify via their league position, cup ties during the coming weeks look increasingly critical, starting with Saturday’s meeting with the side currently 14th in the Championship.

“Of course (we can win the FA Cup),” said Pochettino. “The Carabao Cup and the FA Cup are competitions we need to try to go far.

“But we need to build our run step by step and the first step is (Saturday). It’s a really important competition for us, because we are not in Europe.

“In the Premier League, we are in a position that we need to grow and improve a lot if we want to be in Europe next season. Through the FA Cup or Carabao Cup we can achieve that.

“It’s really important because we had three competitions at the beginning (of the season) and we’re still in them.”

Pochettino confirmed there will not be wholesale changes from the team that won 3-2 against Luton last time out.

He hinted at a possible start for striker Armando Broja, with Christopher Nkunku fit only for the bench and Nicolas Jackson having departed for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Long-term absentees Ben Chilwell and Carney Chukwuemeka – out since September and August respectively – are not yet ready to return, whilst Romeo Lavia has suffered yet another injury setback after making his debut in December.

“We are going to treat it like a Premier League game,” said the manager. “Just because it’s the FA Cup and it’s a Championship team, we are going to respect Preston. You will see we are going to put in place a starting XI with all the guarantees to perform.

“Armando is going to be a possibility to play. But Christopher is not going to start. He suffered some issue during the week. We need to be careful with him after the last six months where he didn’t compete.

“We really trust in (Broja). He has an amazing potential and quality. Now he must forget his (ACL) injury from the last year and start to behave normally.

“Chilwell and Carney are not available, we’ll see for Middlesbrough and Fulham (on January 13). They’re doing well, training with the group the last few days. We are happy with their evolution.

“Lavia, we still don’t know when he will be available again.”

What the papers say

Crystal Palace winger Michael Olise is interesting Manchester United, according to the Evening Standard. The 22-year-old could become one of the first signings since Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s involvement at Old Trafford.

Germany international Timo Werner has also emerged as a transfer target for United, the Daily Mirror reports. According to the paper, RB Leipzig would allow the 27-year-old former Chelsea striker to leave on a loan deal.

One player not likely to be leaving Old Trafford is full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The Daily Mail reports United have triggered a 12-month extension on the 26-year-old’s contract ahead of talks on a new deal.

Chelsea defender Ian Maatsen is a top target for Borussia Dortmund, according to the Daily Telegraph. The Bundesliga giants are keen to take the Dutch left-back, 21, on loan or a permanent deal.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Andre Gomes: Everton are keen to trim the 30-year-old Portugal midfielder’s wages, reports Football Transfers.

Said Benrahma: Wolves and Fulham have joined French Ligue 1 side Lyon in the chase for West Ham’s Algeria winger Said Benrahma, 28, according to French outlet Footmercato.

What the papers say

German team Borussia Dortmund have begun talks with Chelsea’s 21-year-old defender Ian Maatsen, the Standard reports, but Chelsea are not budging on their £30million asking fee. He has played 12 games for Chelsea in the Premier League this season.

French club Lyon are interested in 26-year-old Villarreal winger Arnaut Danjuma, who is on loan at Everton, the Daily Mail says.

The I says Newcastle do not want to be too reactive in the January summer window which could put their bid for Kalvin Phillips in doubt, while Crystal Palace are also interested in the 28-year-old.

Social media round-up Players to watch

Jhon Duran: The 20-year-old Aston Villa striker is attracting interest from Italian giants AC Milan, Sky Sports says.

Conor Gallagher: Tottenham are interested in Chelsea’s 23-year-old midfielder but are not expected to meet the Blues’ £60million request, according to Football Transfers.

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