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.

Mauricio Pochettino called for measures that prioritise rest time for players after a run of three games in seven days for Chelsea.

The 3-2 victory over Luton at Kenilworth Road on Saturday, which ended a streak of four consecutive away losses in the Premier League, was the eighth match his team has played in December.

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), which represents the interests of players, is understood to be exploring the possibility of taking legal action over the number of games in which teams are expected to take part.

It comes ahead of the imminent launch of a new format for the Champions League which could see as many as four extra games added to clubs’ schedules, while the 2026 World Cup will feature 48 countries for the first time.

Chelsea are also due to take part in FIFA’s expanded Club World Cup set to take place in the United States in the summer of 2025.

Pochettino, who is one of a number of top-flight managers to have had to contend with an injury crisis during his first six months in charge at Stamford Bridge, said more must be done to protect players amid growing commitments.

“It’s a business that provides many people in many different areas with a comfortable life,” he said. “(But) of course it’s a business where the players are the principal actors. We need to care about them.

“It’s true that it’s the only sport in the world where the players compete for 10, 11 months. Sometimes we need to manage better the way to rest the players, to give the possibility for recovery.

“When we compare with other sports, only footballers are competing for nearly 11 months.

“When you increase the level of competition, football is fast, the players run more, we push them every day to improve and improve their physical condition. But they need rest.”

Pochettino has had to do without a number of key players for long periods this season, most notably his captain Reece James who recently underwent hamstring surgery, as well as Ben Chilwell and new signings Christopher Nkunku and Romeo Lavia.

Defenders Wesley Fofana and Trevoh Chalobah have not played this season, while Lesley Ugochukwu has been unavailable since the second weekend of the campaign.

“It’s a good point to all realise that (there are) 11 players, in the squad 22,” said Pochettino. “When the manager makes changes it’s so not to play the same starting XI every single game.

“It’s to restrict, so players don’t start every two to three days in a busy period. It’s many ideas we need to share all together to find the best solution.

“There have been too many injured the last few years. We need to be cautious about the situation, we need to look after better our players.”

Mauricio Pochettino praised a “deserved” Chelsea victory after watching his side resist a late Luton fightback to sign off 2023 with a 3-2 win.

Chelsea looked to be cruising as a Cole Palmer brace sandwiched a goal from Noni Madueke to put them 3-0 up with 10 minutes remaining at Kenilworth Road.

There was then late drama, with Ross Barkley and Elijah Adebayo netting for the Hatters, but Pochettino was satisfied that his team were worthy of the win.

“I think we controlled the game until 65 minutes,” he said. “We were the better side and we fully deserved the result. (There were) many positive performances.

“When you concede it increases the opponent’s belief. The Premier League is like this. If you see (Luton’s) previous games – against Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Newcastle – you can understand the difficulty of playing here.

“We need to give them credit. They really believe in the way they play. It’s always tough to play here. We got what we wanted.

“Football is about emotions. When you’re winning 3-0, always you’re still nervous because things can happen to put the game in a difficult situation. We conceded one goal and their belief increased, that’s normal.

“Too many games that has happened in the Premier League. Brighton led against Tottenham 4-0 (on Thursday), in the end it was 4-2. That’s why the Premier League is tough.”

The win ended a run of four straight losses away from home for Chelsea, their worst streak on the road in 23 years, and means they have now taken nine points from their last four games.

With Madueke included from the start for only the second time this season and responding by scoring his second goal in two matches, the manager said he was pleased that his fringe players are proving capable of impactful contributions.

“That’s why you have a big squad,” he said. “We have plenty of numbers when they’re all fit, many players that can perform. It’s very positive to increase the level in all positions.”

Chelsea struck first on 12 minutes through Palmer, rifling into the bottom corner after Issa Kabore’s error had gifted him the ball inside the box.

Madueke made it two, rocketing in when he stood up Amari’i Bell and shot high into Thomas Kaminski’s top corner.

Chelsea’s third and the moment of the match came from Palmer. Nicolas Jackson showed good strength to take control in midfield, turn his man and play a clever early ball through, though at that stage Palmer still had plenty to do.

Kaminski came out, but in shaping to shoot Palmer got the better of the Luton goalkeeper with a sublime roll of his boot over the top of the ball, outfoxed the covering defender Albert Sambi Lokonga who went to ground, and knocked in what at the stage looked like the goal that would kill the game.

But Luton had performed well here in recent games against Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City before beating Newcastle last time out, and ensured Chelsea did not walk away easily with their three points.

First Barkley headed in against his former team from a corner, then Adebayo was quickest to the rebound after Djordje Petrovic had saved Alfie Doughty’s effort, as Rob Edwards’ side gave the visitors an uncomfortable finish.

Luton boss Edwards reflected on a game in which his team showed further evidence of their progress in the top flight.

“We have evolved a lot,” he said. “I like the way we are moving and we have the second part of the season to improve.

“I like what I am seeing. The boys are fully committed and we will continue to keep working hard and building.”

Chelsea survived a spirited late fightback by Luton to edge a dramatic match 3-2 at Kenilworth Road and end their four-game losing streak away from home.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side looked to be cruising to a first victory on the road since early November thanks to two goals from Cole Palmer – his second a sensational piece of individual skill – and one from Noni Madueke who scored for the second time in two games as the visitors took a 3-0 lead.

But that breathing room was sucked away by Luton during a frenetic final 10 minutes, when first Ross Barkley then Elijah Adebayo struck to offer their supporters hope of a spectacular recovery.

Yet Chelsea held their nerve, claiming back-to-back league wins for just the second time under Pochettino.

They had taken the lead after 12 minutes and it was a gift from Luton.

First, the defence was caught out up the pitch and allowed Nicolas Jackson to run in from the left and through on goal. His effort was saved well by the legs of Thomas Kaminski and the ball fell at the feet of Issa Kabore, who instead of clearing his lines played an inexplicable pass straight to the lurking Palmer who took a touch and lashed it home.

Luton looked to Barkley, the former Chelsea player, for a response and he nearly provided it almost instantly, hitting a free-kick from 20 yards out that curved around the wall and cleared the bar by inches.

Chelsea were on their worst run of away league defeats in 23 years, whilst Luton had just recorded back-to-back top-flight wins for the first time this season. Yet in the first half the visitors posed much the clearer threat, attacking with a directness that has often been lacking on the road.

After 37 minutes they got their second, and it was Madueke fresh from scoring the winner against Crystal Palace on Wednesday that got it.

The ball was worked from the left flank over to the right via Palmer playing in the number 10 role. He moved it on again to Madueke, whose route to goal was barred by Amari’i Bell. Luton’s captain backed off, encouraging the Chelsea winger to run outside him and find space to thump the ball high inside the near post into the top corner.

Luton’s key creative outlets, Barkley and Andros Townsend, had been largely nullified by Chelsea’s determined pressing and harrying.

Palmer slotted easily back into his role as the visitors’ principle attacking outlet after serving a one-match suspension, whilst Jackson and Armando Broja were lively and Malo Gusto looked an increasingly able deputy to the injured Reece James at right-back.

The third goal when it came on 70 minutes was well deserved.

Jackson was clever and strong in midfield to spin away from his man and play an early ball through the middle to Palmer. Kaminski raced out to meet him, but as Palmer reached it he outfoxed the Luton goalkeeper with the deftest roll of the ball beneath his studs, sat the covering Albert Sambi Lokonga down and knocked in Chelsea’s third.

Adebayo thought he had got one back when he headed in Alfie Doughty’s cross, but VAR called offside against the winger, before Adebayo headed his next chance against the bar.

There was life in Luton and they proved it with two goals in seven minutes to stun Chelsea.

First, Barkley headed what looked a consolation from a corner, then Adebayo reacted quickest to turn the ball home after Djordje Petrovic had saved from Doughty.

Luton pushed and pushed in the closing minutes but a determined Chelsea held firm.

Mauricio Pochettino thanked Chelsea supporters for the reception given to Nicolas Jackson during the 2-1 home win against Crystal Palace, as the striker prepares to play for the final time before departing for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Pochettino takes his team to play Luton on Saturday lunchtime looking to build on Wednesday’s victory at Stamford Bridge and end a run of four consecutive away Premier League defeats.

Jackson was jeered by his own fans when he was substituted during the second half of the loss to Wolves on Christmas Eve, but recovered to give one of his more impressive performances for the club against Palace.

He had a goal disallowed for a fractional offside, finishing brilliantly on the volley from Axel Disasi’s cross, and showed good movement to get on the end of a pass from Conor Gallagher before shooting wide.

He also set up Mykhailo Mudryk in the first half with an intelligent back heel, but the Ukrainian’s effort was blocked by Palace goalkeeper Dean Henderson.

The manager emphasised that the 22-year-old Senegal international, who is the team’s top scorer with eight in all competitions, does not yet have the experience that previous Chelsea strikers brought with them when joining the club.

“(Against Palace) he was really good,” Pochettino. “He was only missing a goal. In the way he worked for team and ran and pressed, he was amazing.

“We are putting too much focus on him. We need to give him time, we need to believe in him. I think it was really nice the fans in the moment he missed the chances, they were very supportive. I really appreciate the fans that support him.

“Only with time he is going to be more relaxed and calm. Already he has scored goals, it’s not that he doesn’t score. If we check in the past, strikers that arrive at different clubs in England, if they can perform in the first season.

“We’re in months (since he joined), but (people) want that he score goals like (Didier) Drogba or (Jimmy Floyd) Hasselbaink. They came with different experience. You have to look at the background of the player. He’s young, came from Spain, not playing too much. He’s a very good prospect, amazing potential.

“Playing for Chelsea is not the same as playing for a different club, with all respect. The pressure is always when you took the ball to be fantastic.”

Pochettino said that he expected to play a role in any transfer business the club might conduct in January.

Previously targets have been selected by co-sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart but the manager confirmed he will have a say over possible new recruits.

He has spoken in recent weeks about a possible need for reinforcements if results and performances do not improve.

“It’s obvious that a head coach or manager is going to be involved,” he said. “It’s crazy to think I won’t be involved in any decision for the future in my area.

“We are going share (opinions) with the owners and sporting director. I cannot conceive the idea of not being involved.”

Mauricio Pochettino challenged his Chelsea players to match Luton’s fight and to expect “real football” at Kenilworth Road when the teams meet on Saturday.

The visitors have lost four in a row away from home in the Premier League and are without a win on the road since beating nine-man Tottenham early in November.

By contrast, Rob Edwards’ side go into the game off the back of their first consecutive victories of the season, having defeated Newcastle and Sheffield United to pull to within a point of safety.

A third straight win in the lunchtime kick-off would see them escape the bottom three at least until other sides play later in the day.

Plenty of big teams have struggled at Luton’s 11,500-capacity home ground this season, with Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City all falling behind, though the Hatters took only one point from those three fixtures.

Victory against Eddie Howe’s side saw them finally hold on for a famous win, adding to three points won against Crystal Palace in November, to put life into their top-flight survival bid.

Pochettino admitted the trip to Kenilworth Road appealed to the football romantic in him, but warned his team against expecting anything other than a fight to end their poor away run against Edwards’ buoyant side.

“I’m an old man, I am romantic,” he said. “I love football of the past and this kind of stadium makes you remember when I started to play.

“It’s a stadium that smells different. It’s not luxury in the way that we recognise luxury today. This type of stadium is one where you love to be there. It’s history, it’s completely different.

“Today we are living in a different era, but when you go there, you feel real football.

“We need to go to Luton thinking that it’s going to be really tough. The stadium, the fans, it’s a team that loves to fight and work really hard.

“If we want to get a good result, we need to be ready of course to play football, but we need to match the desire, the capacity to fight for every single ball. It’s going to be a good test for us.”

Chelsea will assess Mykhailo Mudryk and Romeo Lavia ahead of the game after both picked up injuries during Wednesday’s 2-1 win against Crystal Palace.

Mudryk was withdrawn with 20 minutes to play having scored his side’s opening goal in the first half, whilst Lavia could be seen struggling towards the end having been sent on for his debut for the final half-hour.

“Lavia felt some issue and we need to check,” said Pochettino. “I’m a little bit worried.

“I changed his position at the end because he was struggling to run. I hope it’s not a big issue. It’s going to be a shame if we can’t use him in the next few days.”

Pochettino confirmed that time off for the players over the new year will depend on what kind of result they return with from Kenilworth Road.

“That is the plan, to win and then give (them) one or two days off depending on the circumstance.”

Noni Madueke believes Chelsea have finally found answers to the goalscoring problems that plagued them last season.

The England Under-21 international came off the bench to fire Mauricio Pochettino’s side to a 2-1 win at home to Crystal Palace on Wednesday, slotting the winner from the penalty spot in the 89th minute after being fouled by Eberechi Eze.

Earlier Michael Olise, who nearly became a Chelsea player in the summer, had equalised on the stroke of half-time after the hosts had failed to build on Mykhailo Mudryk’s 13th-minute opener.

There were chances for Mudryk, Nicolas Jackson and Ian Maatsen on his first start to add to the hosts’ tally but a combination of wayward finishing and Palace goalkeeper Dean Henderson kept Roy Hodgson’s side in it, until Madueke’s late intervention.

Chelsea netted only 38 Premier League goals last campaign, their lowest in the league in almost a century, but already have 31 at the halfway stage this time around.

They have been boosted by the return to fitness of last season’s Bundesliga top-scorer Christopher Nkunku who made a full debut against Palace and was a threat at number 10.

And Madueke feels confident that a corner has been turned.

“We play good football and are scoring goals now,” said the 21-year-old. “I remember last season we weren’t scoring those goals.

“We’re probably conceding a few too many, but I just feel it’s that consistency we need to get down. Once we do, we’ll be a really good team.

“We’ve had some very good performances this season where we haven’t got the rub of the green. It’s a process and where we are now will not define us come the end of the season.”

It was Chelsea’s third league win in a row at home and their fourth in all competitions, though that run has been cut with a streak of four consecutive away losses.

It is their longest sequence of victories at Stamford Bridge since October 2022 and saw them climb back into the top half of the table.

“(This) was a must-win game,” said Madueke. “There have been similar games in the season that we should have won and haven’t quite got the rub of the green, so I’m happy we’ve done the business and got the three points.”

Madueke also reflected on his impact from the bench having been handed just his eighth league appearance or the season, of which only one has been from the start.

He added: “It’s been a stop-start campaign for me. I’ve had little niggles, little injuries, things that haven’t quite gone my way.

“I’m happy to have an impact off the bench (against Palace) and whether I start the next game or have the same impact off the bench is up to the manager.”

Former Chelsea and Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech set a new Premier League record of 170 clean sheets on this day in 2015.

Cech moved ahead of David James’ previous best of 169 in the all-time list after Arsenal’s 2-0 win against Bournemouth at the Emirates Stadium.

He said at the time: “It’s a great personal achievement and I felt really proud at the end of the game because if you look at the names in the clean-sheet numbers and you see all those fantastic goalkeepers who had been playing and are still playing in this league then obviously it is a great achievement to top the list.”

The former Czech Republic keeper went on to rack up 32 more clean sheets for the Gunners in the English top flight to extend his current record to 202.

Cech became the first goalkeeper to register 200 shutouts in Arsenal’s 3-0 home win against Watford in 2018 after saving Troy Deeney’s penalty.

Having racked up 162 Premier League clean sheets during his 11-year career with Chelsea, Cech went on to notch another 40 with Arsenal before retiring at the end of the 2018-19 season.

He brought down the curtain on a glittering career after Arsenal were thumped 4-1 in his final match by former club Chelsea in the Europa League final in Baku.

The former Rennes goalkeeper returned to Stamford Bridge as a technical director upon his retirement as former team-mate Frank Lampard took the helm as manager in west London.

Chelsea registered the then 38-year-old in their Premier League squad in 2020 as a precautionary move to help in any possible coronavirus-related availability crisis.

Cech, who made 124 appearances in total for the Czech Republic during a 14-year international career, signed for National Ice Hockey League Division Two side Guildford Phoenix in 2019.

The 41-year-old joined NIHL Division One side Oxford City Stars in the summer of 2023 after a spell with Chelmsford Chieftains and switched to Elite League side Belfast Giants on loan in November.

Mauricio Pochettino praised match-winner Noni Madueke’s determination to prove his Chelsea worth after he came off the bench to score a late penalty in his side’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge.

Roy Hodgson’s side looked like they had done enough to earn a deserved point as the game ticked into its final moments, until the result turned after a clumsy challenge made by Eberechi Eze, leaving a leg out on the edge of the box for Madueke to tumble over.

A pitch-side VAR review was required but it seemed a straightforward call for referee Michael Salisbury, who awarded a penalty from which the substitute Madueke, who had previously made only seven league appearances under Pochettino, coolly stroked home the winner.

Earlier, Michael Olise had scored a goal worthy of a claiming a draw, lashing home on the half-volley from Jordan Ayew’s pinpoint ball on the stroke of half-time.

Mykhailo Mudryk’s 13th-minute strike, his fourth of the season and second in eight days, had given Chelsea a lead for which they were good value, and the Ukrainian could have extended it had he not shot straight at Dean Henderson from Nicolas Jackson’s clever backheel.

Pochettino’s side looked more dangerous in attack than in recent weeks, finally turning possession into clear chances, and afterwards the manager pointed towards the impact of Madueke in turning frustration at a lack of game time into affirmative action.

“He (Madueke) played free,” said the manager. “He did what we needed in this moment. I liked it because he showed he was upset with me, disappointed with me because he didn’t play too much. (He thought) ‘Now I’m going to show the coach he can trust in me’.

“We are not a charity, we are a football club. We need to perform. We are here to try and help the players to perform.

“Sometimes we need to be tough. We need to show the reality. Sometimes we need to put (the players) in front of the mirror and say ‘come on, that is not the player that is going to perform’.

“We have an amazing group, but they need to realise that to compete at Chelsea is not (the same) as to compete at another club.

“It’s about winning, about lifting trophies and making history. It’s about respecting the history of the club.

“They need to show me that I can trust them. The mentality is really important. You can not only play with you quality. You have to have quality, but if you don’t have the right mentality and approach every single day, it’s difficult to perform.”

Chelsea have now won three in a row in all competitions at home, though that run has been cut with four consecutive defeats on the road.

Victory meant the team climbed back into the top half of the table, however, there remains a 14-point gap to the Champions League places.

Palace boss Roy Hodgson reflected on a game that slipped away from his side after what he deemed a controversial late penalty decision.

“I’ve got to be honest, I have no real interest in discussing referees and VAR,” he said.

“I thought we played very well. It should have got us three points, but it’s got us nothing.

“Am I frightened to death about being three points ahead of the relegation zone? No. What bothers me is 38 games.

“I’m sad at the moment because I think I should be sitting here with at least one point more.”

Chelsea needed an 89th-minute penalty from substitute Noni Madueke to edge past Crystal Palace 2-1 at Stamford Bridge and climb back into the top half of the Premier League table.

It had looked like being another frustrating home outing for Mauricio Pochettino’s side for most of the second half, after Michael Olise had cancelled out Mykhailo Mudryk’s early goal with a brilliant finish on the half-volley on the stroke of half-time.

Nicolas Jackson missed a superb chance to win it, slotting the ball wide after being set up by Conor Gallagher.

But with the game drifting towards what would have been a deserved point for Palace, there was a final twist, Eberechi Eze tripped Madueke as he sought to control the ball on the edge of the box, and the England Under-21 international won the match from the spot with his first league goal of the season.

Chelsea opened the scoring after 13 minutes, and it began with Malo Gusto slipping his man in midfield with a smart shimmy and turn.

Driving over halfway, his pass forward was wayward, but interest in Chelsea’s attack was revived by a critical slip by Nathaniel Clyne whose stumble let the ball run on. That allowed it to reach Christopher Nkunku, who fed the galloping Malo Gusto on the overlap and his centre was gratefully turned home first time by Mudryk.

The Ukraine international had made an electric start and would have made it two shortly afterwards but for a smothering block by Palace goalkeeper Dean Henderson, closing the angle well after Mudryk had been slipped in by a deft Jackson back heel.

There was a fluency about Chelsea that has rarely been seen in recent weeks. Nkunku on his long-awaited first start was at the heart of things. Fresh from his role in the opening goal, he played a wonderful ball in for Jackson, whose low drive was aimed fractionally wide of Henderson’s far post.

The France international might then have had his first Stamford Bridge goal after 25 minutes had he not kicked the turf when clean through on goal, under pressure from defender Chris Richards.

Chelsea were industrious with the ball, racking up 323 passes during the first half and recording 63 per cent possession and – unlike so often this campaign – they had created gilt-edged chances to go with it.

And yet, in the final seconds of the half, a familiar sinking feeling for home supporters. Richards went in strong on Levi Colwill to win the ball in midfield and it broke out wide to Jordan Ayew.

Palace had men in the box and the one picked out by Ayew’s laser-like aim was Olise, who brought it down confidently on his chest, took a momentary glance at Djordje Petrovic and lashed it inside the Chelsea goalkeeper’s near post to make it 1-1.

Palace were without a win in seven games but the goal, though against the run of play, brought belief.

Eze whistled a free–kick past the post as the visitors registered the first chance of the second half, as Roy Hodgson’s side went toe-to-toe with their hosts.

Pochettino left Thiago Silva on the bench for only the second time in the league this season, but called on the 39-year-old just before the hour mark, alongside Romeo Lavia, who finally made his Chelsea debut.

Armando Broja was also sent on as the spectre of another disappointing home result loomed.

Minutes later, their moment looked to have arrived. Moises Caicedo scooped a pass forward to Gallagher who had found space centrally and the captain showed a keen awareness of space to find Jackson running through, but – with only Anderson to beat – he clipped the ball agonisingly wide.

That was followed by a fine, prodded finish from Axel Disasi’s pass that VAR rightly ruled out for offside.

Broja took one down and well drilled into the side netting, after Olise had drawn a smart near-post stop from Petrovic at the other end.

Chelsea thought two more points had slipped away at home. Then with two minutes to go, Madueke went over Eze’s leg, a VAR review yielded a penalty and the substitute picked himself up knock home the winning goal.

Mauricio Pochettino admitted his Chelsea players are falling well short of the targets set for them in pre-season as they seek respite from their sporadic Premier League form at home to Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

Results at Stamford Bridge have been the only bright spot in recent weeks with three straight wins in west London during December, meanwhile fortunes on the road have taken an alarming downturn.

Defeat against Wolves at Molineux on Christmas Eve was their fourth away loss on the spin following reverses at Newcastle, Manchester United and Everton, and has left the team facing the likely prospect of failing to qualify for Europe for a second season.

A Carabao Cup semi-final against Championship side Middlesborough in January could open the door to a possible route into the Europa Conference League, but a current league placing of 10th sees them trailing the top four by 14 points.

Pochettino admitted it is not what he anticipated approaching the midway point of his first Chelsea campaign.

“We’re so far away (from the target),” said the Blues boss. “Our target was to be on the top, even if no one believed us. But in the circumstance, we are fighting for different things.

“We are Chelsea, because our history demands us to be at the top. At the moment, being realistic, we need to increase the way that we compete if we want to win more games.

“We need to compete better than (against Wolves). I think the performance from the beginning of the season has not been bad. We can say it’s very good. But in terms of competing, we are in the bottom. That’s why we are not in a better position in the table.

“In football you need to have the knowledge, the quality, the set-up. But at some point in football in 90 minutes, you need to compete. You need to show in the way you play football. We need to improve there, and that’s about having all the players (fit), spending time with them together.

“We need to finish well, winning the (Palace) game, then to go to Luton (on December 30) and then start the new year with different feelings.”

Pochettino confirmed that Enzo Fernandez will miss the meeting with Roy Hodgson’s side having sat out the loss at Molineux.

Moises Caicedo is likely to return after illness prevented him traveling to Wolves, though Lesley Ugochukwu has a hamstring injury that forced him off on Sunday.

It means Chelsea’s injury woes show no sign of abating.

“The frustration is there, the disappointment,” said Pochettino. “The medical staff are working so hard to anticipate and try to avoid these types of problems.”

What the papers say

Chelsea are looking at a double January raid on Lisbon side Sporting, according to the Evening Standard. Ivory Coast defender Ousmane Diomande, 20, and Sweden striker Viktor Gyokeres, 25, are in the Blues’ sights.

Manchester City are in talks with River Plate midfielder Claudio Echeverri. The Times reports City plan to loan the 17-year-old back to the Argentinian side, who have a £21.4million release clause in his contract.

Sunderland midfielder Pierre Ekwah, 21, is catching the eye of several Premier League clubs, reports the Evening Standard. Sunderland are keen to keep the French youngster but Crystal Palace, Fulham and Nottingham Forest are all circling.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is close to making a return to management, according to the Daily Mirror. The former Manchester United manager, 50, is the front runner to take over at Turkish club Besiktas.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Said Benrahma: West Ham’s 28-year-old Algeria winger is interesting Lyon, according to talkSPORT.

Roberto Firmino: Steven Gerrard’s Al-Ettifaq could takes the former Liverpool forward, 32, from Saudi Pro League rivals Al-Ahli.

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