HomeEFL Cup a priority for Chelsea as Pochettino weighs up Nkunku debut

EFL Cup a priority for Chelsea as Pochettino weighs up Nkunku debut

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Mauricio Pochettino says going all the way in the EFL Cup is a priority for Chelsea as they prepare to host Newcastle United in Tuesday’s quarter-final, when Christopher Nkunku could finally make his competitive debut for the Blues.

Chelsea will welcome Eddie Howe’s Magpies to Stamford Bridge for one of three quarter-finals to take place on Tuesday, with Port Vale hosting Middlesbrough and Everton facing Fulham elsewhere.

Liverpool will then host West Ham in the final last-eight contest on Wednesday, with the competition appearing wide open after both Manchester clubs, Arsenal and Tottenham suffered early exits.

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Chelsea’s last major trophy came under Thomas Tuchel, whose team lifted the FIFA Club World Cup in February 2022 but went on to lose both domestic cup finals in the same campaign.

Pochettino, who was criticised for failing to capture silverware during his spell with Tottenham, is determined to be the man to deliver Chelsea’s first trophy under the Todd Boehly regime.

“It means more for the people than for us, but it means a lot because we want to deliver for our club,” the Argentine said at Monday’s pre-match press conference.

“Delivering a trophy… the most important thing is to win. It’s difficult to measure, but it is a priority. It’s in our minds, our objective, we need to be closer to winning a title.

“We need to fight, we need to be aggressive, to improve in the way we play and to have the capacity to fight for every single ball.”

Tuesday’s game could see Chelsea finally hand a competitive debut to France international Nkunku, who suffered a knee injury in pre-season after arriving from RB Leipzig in July.

Nkunku was an unused substitute as Chelsea beat Sheffield United 2-0 in the Premier League on Saturday, with Pochettino opting against introducing him as the Blues cruised to a comfortable victory.

It could be a different story on Tuesday, but Pochettino has again warned supporters they will need to show patience as Nkunku adapts to English football.

“It was good for him to feel the warm-up and be with the team,” Pochettino said. “Why take a risk when it was 2-0 when I was thinking whether it was the right moment?

“My worry is that we put too much pressure on him and say, ‘now he has arrived, this guy is going to make us win every single game and change everything’.

“He now needs time to recover his feeling. We hope that starts tomorrow, I hope he can maybe play and score three goals.

“He needs to find himself, find the competition and then adapt in a team that was competing without him for the last four or five months.

“We need to be careful. He has not made his debut in the Premier League, and we know how difficult the Premier League is for players outside of England.

“Nkunku can play number 10, number seven, number 11… it’s about the combinations. During pre-season we used him in different positions. Now it is a process to find the combination.”

Jon Fisher
Jon Fisher
Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.

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