Mauricio Pochettino warns against slow start in Chelsea’s Carabao Cup clash

Mauricio Pochettino warns against slow start in Chelsea’s Carabao Cup clash

Mauricio Pochettino warned his Chelsea players they will come unstuck in their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Middlesbrough if they begin the game as they did Saturday’s FA Cup meeting with Preston.

The Sky Bet Championship side did a comfortable job of containing the Blues during the first half at Stamford Bridge, with the hosts displaying little attacking threat against a team currently 14th in the second tier, before clicking into gear after the break to claim a 4-0 win.

Three goals in 11 second-half minutes from Armando Broja, Thiago Silva and Raheem Sterling ultimately broke the resolve of Ryan Lowe’s side, before Enzo Fernandez added a fourth in the final moments.

Into the fourth round in some style! #CFC | #EmiratesFACup

— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 6, 2024

It was a far cry from the stolid performance given in the first 45 minutes, with home supporters forced to endure another listless display in the final third, where Chelsea’s build-up play typically broke down.

And Pochettino said a repeat performance at the Riverside against Michael Carrick’s team on Tuesday could see his side miss out on the opportunity to claim their first trophy since 2021.

“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “Middlesbrough is a very good team that we need to respect. (Saturday) was a great example that we need to respect the opponent if we want to beat them.

“If we start the game like (against Preston), we will find it difficult. We need to use this as an example that we need to start like we played the second half.

Great start to the year

Come on, blues!

— Thiago Silva (@tsilva3) January 6, 2024

“We need to be respectful, not to approach the game showing not the right attitude. (The first half) upset me, but the players were disappointed also at half-time. The attitude was completely different in the second half.”

Chelsea last lifted silverware in December 2021 when they beat Brazilian side Palmeiras to win the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, seven months after victory in the Champions League final against Manchester City in Porto.

Pochettino said he is not allowing his players to think about the Carabao Cup final at Wembley while there is still a final hurdle to clear.

“I don’t want to think on (the final),” he said. “I prefer to think only about Middlesbrough. I know that it’s important for the club and for this team because it’s going to be a boost of energy if we get to the final.

“But we need to go step by step because if we think too much long-term, even if it’s only two months, I think we will expend energy and we will be not right.

“What the group needs is to build their confidence step by step. (Saturday) is a good example, in a good way but also not in a good way. We need to realise that on Tuesday we need to play 90 minutes like we played in the second half.”

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