Chelsea’s 2-0 victory over Blackburn was vital even though it wasn’t always pretty. Chelsea is still in the running for the Carabao Cup. The Blues made it three from three in the cup at Stamford Bridge on Saturday after yet another lackluster home effort in the league. They are now just two rounds away from visiting Wembley.
Although Chelsea hasn’t won the competition since 2015, despite two losses on penalties and a semi-final loss, many have undervalued it over time. Nevertheless, this year’s competition feels more significant than normal. Since there are no scheduled midweek European matches and the top four have already surpassed Mauricio Pochettino’s team, it is one of
There’s an opportunity to offer the trophy-hungry supporters another taste of success as the draw gets underway and Manchester United and Arsenal follow Aston Villa, Tottenham, and Manchester City in leaving early. But first, it’s back to league play, and Pochettino has a crucial stretch of games ahead of him. Fortunately, the team is beginning to gel.
Reece James made his second appearance in the starting lineup of the season, which was a huge lift for the team. He had entered the game as a substitute in the previous two, but he greatly increased his workload in preparation for this Monday’s trip to Tottenham. After the game’s second goal, the 23-year-old left the field after playing for 60 minutes.
“The plan was to check at half time how he feel and how he was,” Pochettino explained beforehand. “After 15 minutes [of the second half] he started to feel tired and we were checking from the second half. He was a little bit tired and we need to be careful how we manage him.
“Of course, I think in that moment we decide to make that change. It is important now to make the progression and to be careful about not to go back. Sometimes maybe to play 90 minutes and take some risk but we need to avoid this. It is true we cannot avoid 100% of the risk but the plan is to go little by little.”
He added: “Is really important, always. When you decide that he’s your captain it is important that they stay fit, can play and help the team. He’s an important player for us. He’s an amazing player, for me one of the best full backs in the world. Unlucky that we only play 70-75 minutes against Liverpool in the first game and until today didn’t play.
“The temptation is ok, come on go and play 90 minutes but we need to be careful. Little by little he is going to get fit and cope with the demand of the games.”
James himself was happy to be back in front of his own fans, writing on Instagram at full-time: “Long ass 3 months since I started, but good to get more minutes in the legs. thanks for the continued support. onto the quarter final. see you on monday night [salute emoji].”
The skipper will now be aiming to get his first league start since August 16 when Chelsea travel to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Joining him in that camp is Benoit Badiashile after the French defender returned to the lineup himself. Badiashile hasn’t played since the end of last season but scored after just half an hour of being back.
On this front it was almost all good news for Pochettino but there are some ongoing issues to deal with too. Mykhailo Mudryk missed the game having also not played against Brentford due to a late knock. “Mudryk, maybe. [Christopher] Nkunku no,” the boss said when asked ahead of the game who was available.
“Both Enzo and Misha felt something in training yesterday, small muscle injuries for them both,” was the reason for being absent on Saturday. “We hoped they would be okay to be in the squad but unfortunately they aren’t quite ready. Neither of them are big issues but we didn’t want to take any risks.
Mudryk will now be aiming to fight his way back into the thinking for the biggest test yet. Elsewhere Nkunku is still some way off playing with December an ambitious target for the 25-year-old. His replacement in the side, Cole Palmer, was once again a standout performer at SW6, notching his third assist of the season, but was seen hobbling around towards the end of the game.