HomePochettino ready for crunch Middlesbrough semi-final

Pochettino ready for crunch Middlesbrough semi-final

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Mauricio Pochettino is aware tomorrow night’s EFL Cup semi-final, second leg against Middlesbrough represents a “massive opportunity” for him and Chelsea.

A trip to Wembley is the immediate prize but victory against the Teessiders would show the club’s owners and fans that he is the right man to drive Chelsea forward after an underwhelming start to his tenure in west London.

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Middlesbrough won the first leg 1-0 a fortnight ago, meaning Chelsea have it all to do at Stamford Bridge.

Pochettino, whose side are ninth in the Premier League, said: “It is a passport to the final, to visit Wembley. It’s really important for us, the club, for everyone.

“We want to be in the final but first of all, we need to beat a very good team in Middlesbrough. We could not beat them in the first leg, but we are very confident that we can have a very good game in front of our fans and the energy from the fans.”

Chelsea wasted a host of opportunities at the Riverside – with Cole Palmer particularly profligate – and were ultimately undone by Hayden Hackney’s close-range strike.

“We feel very disappointed from the first leg. We needed to be clinical,” added Pochettino.

“When the opponent forces you to defend, we need to be strong and in a good position. We need to respect our opponent, it’s going to be tough but it’s a massive opportunity.”

The hosts will again be without winger Christopher Nkunku, who has not played since the 3-2 win at Luton on December 30. 

“There is no chance he will play. He is not going to be with us,” said Pochettino.

“Finding the balance is tough. He suffered a little problem in his hip, it’s not a big issue but it’s stopped him from being available again.”

With no progress in the transfer market, and a raft of injuries, Chelsea have recalled Cesare Casadei and Diego Moreira from loans at Leicester and Lyon respectively.

“They are both coming back from loans and it is up to us to decide whether they will be with us or not,” said the former Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain boss. 

“It will help us as we had been suffering from injuries.”

Casadei is not available against Middlesbrough having played for Leicester in the EFL Cup earlier in the season.

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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