Chelsea: FA Cup or bust for Mauricio Pochettino as fans lose faith in manager | OneFootball

Chelsea: FA Cup or bust for Mauricio Pochettino as fans lose faith in manager | OneFootball

Icon: Evening Standard

Evening Standard

·28 February 2024

Chelsea: FA Cup or bust for Mauricio Pochettino as fans lose faith in manager

Article image:Chelsea: FA Cup or bust for Mauricio Pochettino as fans lose faith in manager
Article image:Chelsea: FA Cup or bust for Mauricio Pochettino as fans lose faith in manager

Chelsea meet old rivals Leeds tonight with their season on the line.

While they can still qualify for Europe through the Premier League, Sunday's Carabao Cup Final defeat means it increasingly feels like it is the FA Cup or bust for Mauricio Pochettino.


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Defeat in the fifth-round tie at Stamford Bridge would pile pressure on Pochettino and leave him vulnerable ahead of the summer when he will have one year left on his contract.

Pochettino is losing large sections of the fanbase, and it has been reported this week that Chelsea have started sounding out alternative managerial options.

Article image:Chelsea: FA Cup or bust for Mauricio Pochettino as fans lose faith in manager

Mauricio Pochettino insisted on Tuesday he has no concerns over his future

Chelsea FC via Getty Images

He needs to rally his players after their Wembley disappointment. It remains to be seen how much those gruelling 120 minutes against Liverpool have taken out of Chelsea, who face a Leeds side flying in the Championship and out to inflict more misery on the Blues.

Another defeat and the mood at the Bridge could turn even more toxic.

The atmosphere at home games has been quiet in recent matches, with a clear disconnect between fans and the team labelled by Gary Neville as "billion-pound bottlejobs".

Pochettino and the team were booed off after losing 4-2 to Wolves in their last home game at the start of the month.

Positive away results against Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Manchester City gave Chelsea a lift, but it feels like they are always only one or two bad results away from their next crisis.

Article image:Chelsea: FA Cup or bust for Mauricio Pochettino as fans lose faith in manager

United belief: Leeds' Wilfried Gnonto

Getty Images

It could be a tricky night against Leeds, who have won 10 of their last 12 games in all competitions and have climbed into the automatic promotion places in the Championship. Daniel Farke's side beat runaway Championship leaders Leicester 3-1 last Friday and will be backed by more than 5,000 fans making the trip tonight.

Pochettino would ideally freshen up his team after they played extra-time at Wembley on Sunday, but he is not blessed with options to bring in. Forward Christopher Nkunku has been ruled out for up to a month after suffering a fresh injury blow, while Noni Madueke and Mykhailo Mudryk struggled when they came off the bench in Sunday's final.

Tonight is the first meeting between Chelsea and Leeds in the FA Cup since the infamous 1970 final, which was one of the most brutal matches in English football history.

Article image:Chelsea: FA Cup or bust for Mauricio Pochettino as fans lose faith in manager

Peter Osgood beats Terry Cooper to the ball during the 1970 FA Cup final

Getty Images

After a 2-2 draw at Wembley, the two teams faced off again in a bruising encounter at Old Trafford. In that replay, which Chelsea won 2-1 after extra-time, Billy Bremner was kicked in the head, Norman Hunter and Ian Hutchinson had a fist-fight and Jack Charlton head-butted Peter Osgood. A single yellow card was shown. When David Elleray 're-refereed' the match on video in 1997, he issued six red cards and 20 bookings.

Things are unlikely to get that violent tonight, but there is no getting away from this being a huge night for Pochettino.

"I have good people next to me, my coaching staff, the staff of the club," he said. "After eight months we have built a very good bond between us, and the players really believe in the way that we are working.

"It takes time, we have to be honest, but now we see the satisfaction of the players to say this is the new way. Now the problem is we need time to win games.

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