Chelsea news as the Blues are put through their paces ahead of hosting Brighton in a crunch match against Brighton on Saturday
And all of a sudden Chelsea taking on Brighton at Stamford Bridge looks like it means so much more. For the second time already this season, for the second time since late September, Mauricio Pochettino waits to host the Seagulls with so much riding on the result.
When the two teams met in the Carabao Cup it was off the back of two defeats in three, back-to-back-to-back goalless games and became the first team of any substance that Chelsea had beaten to that point. The Blues were struggling with only four points from six games and wins against Luton and Wimbledon the only sparks of positivity.
A lot changed with the win over Brighton as confidence started to flow. Pochettino’s men went on to win their next two, scoring six times, and drew with Arsenal. This time round it’s crisis mode activated again.
Despite a better run of just one loss in eight games including matches with the Gunners, Tottenham and Manchester City, the 4-1 defeat to Newcastle has changed much of the feeling at Stamford Bridge. Pressure is now on Pochettino and the run of games coming up still has a worrying look.
Brighton are now coming with confidence after beating Nottingham Forest last time out, just their first domestic victory in eight attempts. Scattered in there are two wins over Ajax, remarkably. De Zerbi’s men will be out to make life much tougher for Pochettino though and even a trip to Old Trafford and Manchester United carries immense threat for the Blues in their current plight.
For that reason Pochettino has upped the heat on himself, the players and the club as a whole with some harsh words coming in the aftermath of defeat at St. James’ Park on Saturday. Here, football.london explores what can be seen from the training pictures released by the club in the build-up.
Running, lots of it
Having been made to run more than ever before for much of pre-season the Chelsea squad were shown an element of Pochettino’s training that sends a clear message as to just how below par things in the north east were. The manager arranged a double session on Wednesday with the players seen doing plenty of cardio work.
Unlike Brighton, who travel to Greece to take on AEK Athens on Thursday before journeying to west London on Sunday, the Blues have no mid-week demands and this could be a way of keeping the team fresh. It could, just as much, be a subtle punishment.
“We were talking in the dressing room after the game, we should go directly to the hotel and sleep, and start to train early in the morning and not have a day off,” the boss had said on Saturday after the game. Pochettino did allow his team the time off on Sunday though, especially after the international break and some lengthy travels for his team.
They were back under the pump here though and Marc Cucurella, Mykhailo Mudryk, Armando Broja, Conor Gallagher, Nicolas Jackson, Raheem Sterling, Enzo Fernandez, Axel Disasi and Ian Maatsen call be seen going through their paces.
New Thiago Silva role
“I’m devastated,” Thiago Silva wrote in the aftermath of the defeat to Newcastle online. “It wasn’t a good day for us. I would like to apologize to everyone for the defeat, especially to my teammates who believe in me and support me every day.
“I take full responsibility. Let’s gather strength and come back stronger [blue heart emoji].” At 39 and with his rolling contract still not confirmed as being extended beyond the end of this season, Silva has come in for some stick. He was at fault for the crucial third goal against Eddie Howe’s men, allowing the ball to get away from him just seconds after kick-off, and arguably holds the team back with his lack of mobility.
In response Silva has been pictured in a completely different scenario at Cobham. In one image he is not only one-on-one with back-up goalkeeper Djorde Petrovic but also taking on a strike at goal. He is sending his right-footed shot at the Serbian gloveman, though the action looks slightly uncomfortable and Petrovic seems well positioned to block effort.
We think that Pochettino might be best suited to leaving Silva to his day job at the back, though it was his goal that sparked the madness against Manchester City. That was from a corner, admittedly.
Pochettino’s helping hand
Central to one of the images taken is Pochettino’s coach Miguel D’Agostino, A.K.A Miki. With the Argentine head coach forced to watch on from the stands against Newcastle it was down to right-hand man and assistant coach Jesus Perez to watch over the team with D’Agostino also on the touchline.
Goalkeeping coach Toni Jimenez joined Pochettino alongside co-owner Behdad Eghbali and co-sporting director Laurence Stewart from afar. This is one of the first times that D’Agostino has been so prominent though and may well come at a key time.
Pochettino is open and honest about the need to remain fresh and keep his players on their toes. He isn’t captured in the snaps posted online and may well have taken a backward seat role for this double session, or at least some part of it, trusting his team to instead get the point across.
Come Sunday expect to see the former Tottenham boss back in his place though. His assistants and trust coaches will be there alongside him, after all.
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