Joe Cole has thrown his weight behind Mauricio Pochettino ahead of a critical week for Chelsea.

The Blues are languishing ninth in the Premier League and trail fourth-placed Aston Villa by 12 points, but turn their focus to the domestic cups this week.

Championship Middlesbrough visit Stamford Bridge on Tuesday holding a one-goal advantage in the Carabao Cup semi-final while Villa await on Friday in an FA Cup fourth-round tie, but Cole does not believe this week is make-or-break for Pochettino.

“Pochettino is doing a great job. I think the club are not there and everyone needs to get behind Mauricio and really get behind his team because it will take that,” Cole told the PA news agency at the launch of Green Football Weekend at Wembley.

“No, I don’t think it is (make-or-break). I really don’t. What I took from the club is an element of ‘we will go with this, they’re young players’. The people at the top obviously believe bringing in these younger players and having a manager work with them will bear fruit later on.

“I think it needs time. ‘Poch’ has held himself impeccably well since he got there and done a great job. He is doing the right thing, he is trying to take pressure off the players because this isn’t the squad of the last 20 to 25 years of Chelsea.

“This is a different squad that is growing. They can become that if they stick together, learn and develop but there has been pain and there will be short-term pain.

“Nobody at Chelsea is happy sitting eighth in the league, let alone 12th like it was a few weeks ago, but you have to stick with them and let them grow. Let them become players in a top team.

“By the end of the season there needs to be improvement in the performances and something you can hold onto. I don’t think there is any requirements for European football, I don’t think there is any requirements for trophies and we’ve had a reality check.

“This is where we are and we have to build up. Unfortunately in football that is step by step.

“It isn’t ‘we’re going to buy another five players’ and all of a sudden we can compete with Man City. We’ll need to go to the summer, get the next two or three signings right, build again, get a little bit better.

“Hopefully if you make more good decisions than bad decisions, you’ll get back up there.”

The pressure would increase if results were not to go Chelsea’s way this week and one of their great managers is back on the market after Jose Mourinho was sacked by Roma.

While Cole played down his old boss potentially replacing Pochettino, he did insist all of England’s top clubs would talk to Mourinho if a vacancy opened up.

“For me, he has been a success everywhere he has gone and is still a top manager,” Cole added.

“All top clubs in England, if any of them change manager in the next six months and he is out of a job, he will be talked about and it will be a real conversation because he can still manage anybody.”

:: Green Football Weekend is on 3-4 February, head to to find out more on the campaign and score green goals for your club.

Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand declared "we haven't seen" a player like Jude Bellingham at his age after the Borussia Dortmund teenager helped guide his team to a 4-1 Champions League win at Sevilla.

Bellingham scored one and assisted one as Dortmund eased to victory in Spain on Wednesday, with other goals coming from Raphael Guerreiro, Karim Adeyemi and Julian Brandt, while Youssef En-Nesyri pulled one back for the hosts.

Bellingham, 19, who captained the Bundesliga side, became just the second teenager to score in the first three games of a Champions League campaign.

The only other player to achieve that feat is his former BVB team-mate Erling Haaland, who did so with Salzburg in the 2019-20 season.

Bellingham's tally of three Champions League goals this season is already a joint-high among English teenagers for a single campaign, along with Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, back in 2004-05.

"What he's doing in his position at his age, we haven't seen," Ferdinand said, working as a pundit for BT Sport.

"The best of our generation, [Frank] Lampard, [Steven] Gerrard, [Paul] Scholes, [Patrick] Vieira, Roy Keane, they weren't doing this.

"He's still got to go on and prove it over a long period of time, but they weren't doing what he is doing right now [at the same age].

"Influencing games at this level, captaining teams at this level, and mentally this kid's a beast."

Fellow pundit and former Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole added: "Along with Erling Haaland, he's the best young player in the world, that's for sure.

"I watched him play for England over the two [Nations League] games [against Italy and Germany] and he was our best player.

"His dad I believe was a semi-pro footballer so he's obviously been guided right... When we grew up with Frank [Lampard] and his dad was a footballer obviously, a top footballer, and Frank had this maturity about him... Bellingham's got that as well, coupled with his undoubted God-given talent and his drive, he's unstoppable."

Bellingham has long been linked with a move back to England, having joined Dortmund from Birmingham City in 2020, with Liverpool, Manchester City, United and Chelsea all reportedly keeping an eye on developments, along with LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

"One thing that's for sure – whoever gets him – is [his] temperament," Ferdinand said.

"When you're making big transfers and big moves like that in the spotlight, temperament is a key element you need to get right. This kid has already proved that it isn't a question mark."

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