Mauricio Pochettino warned his players hard work is still required at Chelsea despite the increase to their status and bank balance that comes with joining the club.

A chaotic campaign that has seen the first-team squad decimated by injuries threatens to peter out, with the club marooned in 12th place ahead of the visit of Manchester United to Stamford Bridge on Thursday night.

It comes five days after the league’s second-bottom side Burnley left west London with a 2-2 draw despite playing the whole of the second half with 10 men, as relations between the club and its supporters seemed to sink further into discord.

The club has an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City at Wembley to come later in the month, likely to be their only chance of salvaging a dismal season.

Chelsea are on course for their second bottom-half league finish in a row and Pochettino called on his players to use the final weeks of the campaign to follow his own hard-working example and show supporters why they were signed as part of a £1billion overhaul of the squad.

“When I was in Espanyol, my first job as a coach, I was on the training ground at seven o’clock every morning,” said the Argentinian.

“Then I moved to Southampton, six-thirty. Then Tottenham, seven. Then Paris (St Germain), six in the morning. Now six forty-five. You can ask the guy on security.

“It’s not going to change after 15 years. My passion is here. My motivation is football. You increase your bank account but that cannot put me in a comfortable zone to say ‘now I will arrive at nine o’clock and leave at two o’clock’. I need to keep pushing myself.

“If (a player) arrives from another club where there was less money, less expectation but now I arrive here because people believe I am so good, what do I need to do? It’s to arrive early, it’s to work more, it’s to run more, be focused more.

“It’s more responsibility now. We feel that responsibility.”

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust wrote to the owners and senior management last month to communicate their dismay at the direction the club is taking under the leadership of Todd Boehly’s Clearlake Capital consortium.

The letter warned of potentially irreparable damage that is being done to the relationship between the club and its supporters, as the team has gone from being Champions League regulars to a mid-table side in less than two years.

Pochettino rejected the suggestion players have already adopted the view that the season is doomed and there is little left to salvage.

“If you are in a comfort zone, you drop in your level, you drop in your standard,” he said. “I don’t say that that has happened here. Too many other things have happened.”

Mauricio Pochettino has defended Conor Gallagher after the midfielder received abuse on social media for failing to high-five a mascot.

Chelsea said in a statement that the “defamatory comments” made towards Gallagher were “completely unacceptable” and that the video had been taken out of context.

The incident occurred in the tunnel immediately ahead of kick-off when the Blues played Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, with the 24-year-old seemingly not noticing that one of the mascots had held up his hand.

Pochettino rejected any suggestion that the player acted intentionally, and condemned the online reaction to the incident.

“It has upset me so much,” he said. “No one wants to do this with this intention. When you are focusing on playing and starting the game, that sometimes can happen.

“People always try to find things to create a mess. I know Conor. Come on – there’s never that intention. Conor is a great kid and always is caring about everything. I hate how people feel free to abuse on social media.”

It is the second time this season that a Chelsea player has been subjected to abuse on social media, after captain Reece James spoke out earlier this year about unfair criticism he had received when he was ruled out with injury.

Pochettino has spoken out previously about the impact of online attacks against players, and re-emphasised the urgency in ridding the game of the problem.

“Today, abuse of people is so easy,” he said. “Whenever this type of thing happens, we (must not) give too much attention to the type of people that want to create it, to insult and abuse other people. Please stop.

“How is it possible to believe that Conor’s intention is to ignore a mascot? Come on. It makes me very sad.

“Our responsibility is to try to ignore this type of thing. The people that try to create it never help our lives. They don’t deserve attention.

“The problem with social media today is it’s like a compulsory thing if you want to communicate. It measures your value, depending on the followers you have.

“It puts value on you in front of society. That is the problem. We’re seeing too many things like this that are so wrong in society.”

Pochettino also highlighted the example of Barcelona defender Inigo Martinez, who this week was filmed getting out of his car to remonstrate with a fan who had criticised him verbally.

The reaction to Martinez’s handling of the situation has been mixed, with some criticising him for confronting the supporter whilst others have offered their backing.

Pochettino suggested the player had been deliberately provoked in order that his reaction could be filmed and posted online.

“It is society that consumes (this material),” he said. “All that people are interested in are bad things.

“We are a bit responsible also. We opened the door, all the documentaries. People want to see when we are fighting but never things that are good, happy things. They want to find the wrong things. That is the society that we are all involved in.”

Burnley boss Vincent Kompany has been charged with misconduct by the Football Association following his side’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Tempers flared after referee Darren England awarded a penalty to the Blues in the 40th minute for Lorenz Assignon’s foul on Mykhailo Mudryk. The Burnley defender was also shown a second yellow card, forcing the Clarets to play the second half with 10 men.

Kompany was sent off for protesting on the touchline and afterwards expressed his opinion that officials have not been good enough throughout the season.

“I’ll keep saying what I think,” Kompany said.

“I’m not shying away from it and I’ve said it to the referees themselves, the officials, refereeing hasn’t been good enough this season.

“And I have said that in, I think, a constructive way, understanding as well the fact it’s not easy for them. The scrutiny is massive, the pressure is bigger than it’s ever been on the officials.

“I think the addition of VAR and more opinions and more officials doesn’t make it easy for them to do their jobs.

“I haven’t got any issues with being fined. I just want it to be right.”

The FA announced on Wednesday that the Burnley boss has been charged with improper conduct.

A statement read: “It is alleged that the manager’s language and/or behaviour around the 40th minute was improper and/or abusive and/or insulting towards a match official and/or questioned their integrity.”

Kompany has until 6pm on Friday, April 5 to respond to the charge.

Raphael Varane and Jonny Evans look set to bolster Manchester United’s beleaguered backline at Chelsea as Erik ten Hag’s side continue to search for answers to their ongoing injury problems.

The Red Devils have been besieged by issues during a difficult second season for the Dutchman, with the side struggling in the Premier League and dumped out of Europe before Christmas.

United face an uphill battle to qualify for next year’s Champions League and produced one of their worst displays on Saturday at Brentford, where Victor Lindelof became the latest player to pick up a muscle injury.

The Sweden international’s hamstring issue in the 1-1 draw is set to keep him out for at least a month, with his replacement Lisandro Martinez facing a similar absence after sustaining a calf complaint in training.

Those issues compound the absence of fellow defenders Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia, but Ten Hag is hopeful that Varane – who went off at half-time on Saturday – and recently injured Evans will be fit to face Chelsea.

“No more issues – we don’t need (anymore)!” the United manager said ahead of Thursday’s match. “On the frontline and in midfield we are OK, we have options there.

“But in the backline we have a lack of options, but the good thing is back in training this afternoon is Raphael Varane and Jonny Evans. And Harry Maguire was already yesterday back in training.”

Lindelof and Martinez’s setbacks raise further questions about the spate of muscle injuries United have been dealing with this term.

Asked if they are any closer to knowing why they are getting so many issues, Ten Hag said: “Yeah, we have an idea but we will work on that. I think internally we will deal with it.”

Ten Hag rejected the chance to expand on what that “idea” was but was more forthcoming about the strains on top teams right now.

“You can’t prevent,” the United boss said. “You see it’s not only us who’ve had this.

“The standards of the Premier League from an intensity perspective are so high, the overload in the schedule, also international football is so huge.

“We have all internationals in our squad and you see it’s not only us – City, Liverpool and Newcastle have the problems, so there are many other teams.

“In this moment, especially the defending department but in the midfield and frontline the players are available.”

Injuries only offer some mitigation for United’s struggles, though, with the drop-off from the stunning FA Cup quarter-final win against Liverpool to the draw at Brentford setting off alarm bells.

The Bees had an eye-watering 31 shots on Saturday and the Red Devils return to west London on Thursday needing a vastly improved display.

“I am long enough in football to know and also some of you should also understand why such things happen,” Ten Hag said.

“Sometimes you are not playing well but we are Man United and we still have to win. And when you are winning, you can’t give it away like we did.

“That was the biggest disappointment for me but also we have to see the trend-line over a long period, from Christmas on, is positive and we keep going.”

The only positive at Brentford was Mason Mount scoring his first United goal as he continues to build fitness after four months out with a calf issue.

The 25-year-old is now preparing for his first return to Chelsea since leaving in the summer, with Ten Hag keen to avoid rushing him back too soon.

“He’s a fantastic football player but it’s important first that he is getting and keeping fit because he has had three injuries,” he said.

“You see it now with Licha, so another injury, so you want to avoid and we have to do this carefully.

“This is first objective, to keep him fit. Of course in the same we want to use him that he can benefit and contribute to the team like he did on Saturday when he had a big impact.”

Raphael Varane and Jonny Evans look set to bolster Manchester United’s beleaguered backline at Chelsea as Erik ten Hag’s side continue to search for answers to their ongoing injury problems.

The Red Devils have been besieged by issues during a difficult second season for the Dutchman, with the side struggling in the Premier League and dumped out of Europe before Christmas.

United face an uphill battle to qualify for next year’s Champions League and produced one of their worst displays on Saturday at Brentford, where Victor Lindelof became the latest player to pick up a muscle injury.

The Sweden international’s hamstring issue in the 1-1 draw is set to keep him out for at least a month, with his replacement Lisandro Martinez facing a similar absence after sustaining a calf complaint in training.

Those issues compound the absence of fellow defenders Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia, but Ten Hag is hopeful that Varane – who went off at half-time on Saturday – and recently injured Evans will be fit to face Chelsea.

“No more issues – we don’t need (anymore)!” the United manager said ahead of Thursday’s match. “On the frontline and in midfield we are OK, we have options there.

“But in the backline we have a lack of options, but the good thing is back in training this afternoon is Raphael Varane and Jonny Evans. And Harry Maguire was already yesterday back in training.”

Lindelof and Martinez’s setbacks raise further questions about the spate of muscle injuries United have been dealing with this term.

Asked if they are any closer to knowing why they are getting so many issues, Ten Hag said: “Yeah, we have an idea but we will work on that. I think internally we will deal with it.”

Ten Hag rejected the chance to expand on what that “idea” was but was more forthcoming about the strains on top teams right now.

“You can’t prevent,” the United boss said. “You see it’s not only us who’ve had this.

“The standards of the Premier League from an intensity perspective are so high, the overload in the schedule, also international football is so huge.

“We have all internationals in our squad and you see it’s not only us – City, Liverpool and Newcastle have the problems, so there are many other teams.

“In this moment, especially the defending department but in the midfield and frontline the players are available.”

Injuries only offer some mitigation for United’s struggles, though, with the drop-off from the stunning FA Cup quarter-final win against Liverpool to the draw at Brentford setting off alarm bells.

The Bees had an eye-watering 31 shots on Saturday and the Red Devils return to west London on Thursday needing a vastly improved display.

“I am long enough in football to know and also some of you should also understand why such things happen,” Ten Hag said.

“Sometimes you are not playing well but we are Man United and we still have to win. And when you are winning, you can’t give it away like we did.

“That was the biggest disappointment for me but also we have to see the trend-line over a long period, from Christmas on, is positive and we keep going.”

The only positive at Brentford was Mason Mount scoring his first United goal as he continues to build fitness after four months out with a calf issue.

The 25-year-old is now preparing for his first return to Chelsea since leaving in the summer, with Ten Hag keen to avoid rushing him back too soon.

“He’s a fantastic football player but it’s important first that he is getting and keeping fit because he has had three injuries,” he said.

“You see it now with Licha, so another injury, so you want to avoid and we have to do this carefully.

“This is first objective, to keep him fit. Of course in the same we want to use him that he can benefit and contribute to the team like he did on Saturday when he had a big impact.”

Mauricio Pochettino admitted his Chelsea players are relying on Cole Palmer to get them out of trouble during games this season.

The summer signing from Manchester City is top scorer at Stamford Bridge after his two goals against Burnley on Saturday took him to 16 for the campaign.

His impact has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise tumultuous season for Pochettino and his team, who languish in the bottom half of the Premier League table after failing to overcome the league’s second-bottom side at home despite playing against 10 men for the entirety of the second half.

Palmer scored a first-half penalty to break the deadlock then, after Burnley had levelled via Josh Cullen’s volley, looked to have won it with a finely taken finish into the corner with 12 minutes to play.

But Chelsea were immediately undone by a header from a corner from defender Dara O’Shea as Vincent Kompany’s side rescued an unlikely point and doomed home fans to another frustrating result.

Few players have lived up to Palmer’s example this season, with Saturday’s meek surrender after twice taking the lead a prime case study in a campaign that has gone badly awry.

“He’s a good example for the rest,” said Pochettino.

“From day one he has taken responsibility. When the team struggle to find solutions, they give the ball to him.

“It’s a dream (to have him). He brings very positive things for the team. And for him to have the possibility to play games he didn’t play in the last year for Manchester City.

“Now he has the continuity and consistency, he’s showing the capacity that we thought he could add to the team.”

Chelsea looked to have the game firmly under control when Clarets defender Lorenz Assignon was red carded for fouling Mykhailo Mudryk just before half-time, conceding the penalty from which Palmer scored with an impudent Panenka chip.

But despite peppering the visitors’ goal with 33 shots they failed to stymie Burnley’s threat and never really looking comfortable when out of possession.

That they extended their unbeaten league run to five games, their longest in almost 18 months, was of little consolation to supporters at the final whilst – nor, thinks Pochettino, to Palmer.

“It’s a collective,” he said. “He cannot be happy (after a result like this). He is disappointed.”

Mauricio Pochettino conceded Chelsea are missing something after they failed to defeat 10-man Burnley in what he reflected had been a “must-win” game at Stamford Bridge, which ended 2-2.

Cole Palmer’s goal, drilled into the bottom corner from Raheem Sterling’s delightful flick with 12 minutes to play, looked to have nicked it for the hosts, restoring the lead after Josh Cullen had whacked Burnley level on the volley early in the second half.

Palmer had earlier given Chelsea the lead from the penalty spot, converting after Lorenz Assignon had fouled Mykhailo Mudryk and been shown a second yellow card, whilst a furious Vincent Kompany was also dismissed from the touchline for remonstrating.

But Pochettino was left to rue another frustrating result when, minutes after Palmer had made it 2-1, Dara O’Shea got forward from a corner, evaded everybody in blue inside the box and headed the ball through the clumsy grasp of goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic to salvage the visitors a point.

“Today we didn’t show the capacity, the energy, the hunger,” said Pochettino. “Not the minimum to compete in the Premier League. In defensive phases, we concede too much.

“That is why I’m so upset and disappointed. It’s more here (in the heart) and here (in the head) than in your legs. It’s about being strong like a group, strong like a team.

“We are too slow evolving in this area. That was the key today. The team played well, we had energy. When we have the ball, we go forwards.

“But when we didn’t have the ball, we don’t have the same energy. Today, sorry, I am not happy with the performance when we don’t have the ball.

“It’s difficult to accept not to win. It was a must-win game to be in a position to attack (the table).”

At five games, Chelsea’s unbeaten league run is now the longest they have enjoyed in almost 18 months, but there was little positive cheer shown by fans at the end towards Pochettino and his players.

In failing to beat the Premier League’s second-bottom side, they lost further ground in what looks an increasingly doomed bid to qualify for Europe via their league placing.

Pochettino felt that his team’s problems in turning performances into points ultimately had a psychological root.

“(The players) need to realise that competing is different to playing football,” he said. “We can be there and play, but we need to increase our level.

“It’s not about blaming the players. Maybe we (the coaching staff) need to be tougher with them.

“We need to be more ruthless, find better communication, be more competitive.

“We are missing something. That’s why we are where we are. When we don’t have the ball we need to increase our capacity to recover it.”

Burnley’s assistant manager Craig Bellamy reflected on a performance of which the travelling supporters could be proud.

“To be able to show the patience they showed, working together, the organisation, the commitment, you couldn’t be nothing short of proud watching it,” he said.

Chelsea were held to a 2-2 draw by Burnley at Stamford Bridge as Vincent Kompany’s side twice came from behind with 10 men to frustrate the hosts.

At five league games it became Chelsea’s longest unbeaten run in the league in almost 18 months, but there was little good cheer directed towards Mauricio Pochettino and his players by fans at the final whistle, after they saw Dara O’Shea snatch a point for Burnley late on.

Cole Palmer had earlier scored twice, the first a penalty after defender Lorenz Assignon had been dismissed for fouling Mykhailo Mudryk, then making it 2-1 after being set up by a delightful flick from the under-fire Raheem Sterling.

In between, Josh Cullen volleyed Burnley level against the run of play early in the second half, as their top-flight survival bid received an unlikely boost.

The first opportunity had been Burnley’s. A long ball up from halfway drifted over the head of Benoit Badiashile and was lashed across goal and wide by Jacob Bruun Larsen.

Next to go close was Enzo Fernandez. His shot from the edge of the box took a wicked deflection towards the top corner, before being brilliantly turned onto the crossbar and behind by Arijanet Muric.

It was a bright Chelsea opening, Palmer and Conor Gallagher readily a threat when linking up whilst Mudryk, fresh from scoring the goal that sent Ukraine to Euro 2024, showed speed and tricky footwork rampaging down the left.

Yet Burnley were not blunt. Wilson Odobert drew a fine, flying save from goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic, finding space to fire from range after stepping inside Malo Gusto, who allowed him past too easily.

Nicolas Jackson too might have done better when he raced on to Palmer’s incisive through-ball, danced round two defenders and aimed for the corner, again though Muric saved.

Axel Disasi thought he had given Chelsea the lead midway through the first half, turning the ball in at the far post from Mudryk’s cross, only for VAR to rule it had gone in off the defender’s arm.

Mudryk fired straight at Muric after being teed up by Jackson jinking in off the right, as Chelsea’s shot count rose to 12 inside the opening 35 minutes.

The sense that Burnley were clinging on grew, and shortly before half-time their task was made exponentially harder.

Assignon initially looked to have Mudryk under control as the pair raced to reach the ball in the left channel. Mudryk stepped across him, and Assignon heaved him away and to the ground with a raised arm at neck height.

In the chaos that followed, the defender was shown a second yellow card, the fulminating Kompany too saw red, leaving Burnley a man down and with their manager banished from the touchline. With his impudent penalty, Palmer added insult to injury to give Chelsea the lead.

It was richly deserved, and so Burnley’s equaliser immediately after the break stunned the home crowd. Cullen played a one-two with Josh Brownhill 25 yards out, receiving it back and crashing an instinctive volley beyond Petrovic with the second half barely two minutes old.

The visitors would have been ahead had Petrovic not saved brilliantly one-handed from Odobert’s close-range header, then at the other end Muric was again Burnley’s saviour, beating away Jackson’s low first-time drive.

Home fans were contemplating another frustrating result when Sterling, on for Moises Caicedo, diverted the ball beautifully into the feet of Palmer with a devilish flick, and Chelsea’s top scorer crashed it into the bottom corner to restore the lead.

It lasted under three minutes. At once Burnley were up the other end winning a corner, and from it nobody in blue followed O’Shea as he ran across four defenders and headed the ball through Petrovic’s fumbled grasp to level.

Sterling should have won it when he burst onto Palmer’s far-post cross but inexplicably nodded wide, before Jay Rodriguez headed against the crossbar in the 88th minute as Burnley threatened the improbable.

Mauricio Pochettino said Chelsea’s owners are suffering along with supporters as the team labours in the bottom half of the Premier League table, after fans accused the club of becoming a “laughing stock” since Todd Boehly’s Clearlake Capital took charge.

A letter written by the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust to senior management on March 8 described a “critically low mood” amongst fans that it felt could not be ignored if a situation of “irreversible toxicity” was to be avoided.

The team are 11th in the league and face the likelihood of a second successive season out of Europe if they fail to overcome Manchester City in next month’s FA Cup semi-final and go on to win the competition.

Pochettino’s tenure has been badly marred by a persistent and lengthy injury list, with nine players confirmed absent for Saturday’s meeting with Burnley at Stamford Bridge.

However, it has not stopped fans turning on the former Tottenham boss in recent weeks, including during the FA Cup win over Leicester before the international break.

A section of supporters sang “you don’t know what you’re doing” before Chelsea edged past the Championship side 4-2 with two stoppage-time goals, and at previous home games were heard singing the names of former manager Jose Mourinho and ex-owner Roman Abramovich.

“I’m going to support the owners that invest and that arrived to the club in a very difficult situation,” said Pochettino.

“The intention is very good. The owners are trying to develop a different project to before. Fans need to understand that it’s a new project with different ideas.

“What we cannot say is they’re not investing and that they don’t have good intentions. They are suffering.”

Despite supporter ire, there have been signs of promise in recent results and performances.

Chelsea have not lost in the league in almost two months since a 4-2 defeat to Wolves at the start of February, and dominated an albeit inexperienced Liverpool team in the Carabao Cup final before losing to a goal in the last minute of extra-time.

Victory over the Clarets on Saturday and at home to Manchester United on Thursday would likely drag them into contention for a place in next season’s Europa Conference League.

“If you look at all the data, in the table we should be in fourth position,” said Pochettino. “But for different reasons, we are not there.

“What the data means is that we are in a good way. In which area do we need to improve? It’s things (that will come) with time. We need to compete better, small details. You can only get this with experience with time playing together.

“It’s easy to find the data when you want to kill someone. But when the data is good and reflects the team is doing well but for different reasons we’re not getting the results we deserve, (we should) trust in the process.

“We know really well what we are doing. That’s why I laugh. I don’t take it personally when the fans say that.”

Mauricio Pochettino admitted he was surprised Ben Chilwell started two games for England during the international break, having only recently returned from a knee injury.

The defender last started for Chelsea on March 2 against Brentford and since then has played just a few minutes for the club, as a late substitute in the FA Cup against Leicester.

Yet he played the entirety of England’s 2-2 draw with Belgium on Tuesday, three days after completing 67 minutes against Brazil.

The Argentinian is no closer to seeing the end of his team’s injury crisis with nine players currently ruled out of Saturday’s meeting with Burnley at Stamford Bridge.

More squad members will be assessed after returning from international duty, including Chilwell, who took a knock to his knee against Belgium.

“He didn’t play after Brentford, then he played only a few minutes against Leicester,” said Pochettino. “(Then) he started two games (for England).

“It’s a surprise for us. It’s bad luck because he got a dead leg in the last moment against Belgium. Now we need to assess if he can be available.”

Enzo Fernandez was set to return to the club’s Cobham training base on Thursday afternoon after playing twice for Argentina in the United States during the break, and is another player whose fitness will be checked on.

Three names unlikely to feature on Saturday however are Robert Sanchez, Trevoh Chalobah and Carney Chukwuemeka, the latter after returning injured from duty with England Under-21s.

The club confirmed this week that Romeo Lavia would be out for the rest of the season.

The summer signing from Southampton has played just 32 minutes for the first team since arriving in west London for £58million and has suffered a series of setbacks.

“It’s a difficult situation for him,” said Pochettino. “He’s sad. He only played 30 minutes, for a new player at the club.

“When we signed him, he arrived with problems. He couldn’t train with us for the first months. Then when he was ready he suffered a problem in his feet.

“He recovered, he played 30 minutes then got injured in December. Then he didn’t have the possibility to train. It’s really sad news.”

However, top scorer Cole Palmer is likely to be available to face Burnley, having not featured in either of England’s games during the last week.

The 21-year-old was injured for the Brazil game and was an unused substitute against Belgium.

“I talked with him,” said Pochettino. “He’s a little bit disappointed because he couldn’t play with the national team.

“The first game he had a small problem. He thought maybe he’d play the second game.

“Now he’s OK, is training well. The plan is he will be available for Saturday.”

Chelsea midfielder Romeo Lavia will miss the rest of the season after suffering a setback in his recovery from a thigh injury.

The 20-year-old suffered the injury when making his Blues debut as a substitute against Crystal Palace in December.

Chelsea said in a statement on their website: “Midfielder Romeo Lavia is to unfortunately miss the remainder of our 2023-24 campaign following a setback in his recovery.

“Recent medical assessments have confirmed that Lavia, who sustained a significant thigh injury against Crystal Palace back in December, will not feature again this season.”

Lavia, who joined Chelsea from Southampton last summer for an initial £53million, has endured a difficult start to life at Stamford Bridge.

He missed the first half of the season due to an ankle injury.

Emma Hayes does not believe her trophy-laden Chelsea reign should be defined by whether she can end the club’s wait for a maiden Women’s Champions League crown.

Blues boss Hayes is set to end a successful 12-year tenure in the summer to become head coach of the United States women’s team.

The 47-year-old has won six Women’s Super League titles and lifted the FA Cup five times during her time in charge but continental glory has proved elusive.

Chelsea are on course to reach the semi-finals in Europe in Hayes’ swansong season, having built a 3-0 aggregate lead going into Wednesday evening’s quarter-final second leg at home to Ajax.

“Of course, if I was able to win the Champions League in my time here I’m sure it would be another unbelievable achievement,” she said.

“But for my era to be defined by one competition is probably not what matters most to me.

“What matters most – beyond the winning over the years – is that I will leave the shirt in a better place.

“That’s probably the thing I’m most invested in – to make sure that when I leave, the team is in a fabulous place and certainly in a better place than when I took over and where I can come back as a fan and enjoy them hopefully in many more Champions League (campaigns).”

Chelsea came close to Champions League glory in 2021 before suffering an emphatic 4-0 defeat to Barcelona in the final.

The Blues are poised for a potential semi-final rematch with reigning champions Barca this term.

Yet, despite last week building a commanding first-leg lead in Amsterdam, Hayes insists it would be a “mistake” to overlook an Ajax team with little to lose.

“The fear of losing or the fear of not being in that semi-final is, for us, as big a drive as it is the desire to win it, in fact it’s more,” said Hayes.

“There is no-one in our dressing room that will take tomorrow’s game lightly or think for one minute just because we’re winning 3-0 that the game is over. That is a mistake.

“It all starts in your head, in your mind.

“And, when a team has nothing to lose, they play with freedom and in a different way to express themselves and they are often the most dangerous opponents so, for sure, we don’t take tomorrow lightly.”

Chelsea’s midweek appointment at Stamford Bridge comes four days before the Continental Tyres League Cup final against Arsenal at Molineux.

Preparations for the Gunners – the only English club to have won the Champions League following success in 2007 – remain on the back-burner.

“We only play one game at a time; I’m not thinking about Sunday,” said Hayes.

“I’m thinking about tomorrow. We know Ajax are going to come out and be aggressive. We’re expecting that.

“Only one team advances, so we’re prepared for the aggression from the opponent.

“They’re a good side and it’s important for us to keep all of our focus and attention on tomorrow.”

What the papers say

Arsenal and Chelsea are set to battle it out for 20-year-old Sporting defender Ousmane Diomande. According to The Sun, Arsenal have matched their London rival’s £51million plus bonuses offer to lure the Ivory Coast international from Lisbon.

Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi is attracting interest from Bayern Munich among other clubs for his work at the Seagulls. But the Daily Mirror reports the Italian coach is in no rush to decide on his future.

Everton’s England Under-17s goalkeeper Douglas Lukjanciks is attracting attention across Europe. The Daily Mail reports Bayer Leverkusen are among the clubs interested in the 16-year-old.

Promising Nigerian striker Hafiz Umar Ibrahim is set for a trial at Chelsea, thanks to a little help. Raheem Sterling played a key role in linking the 18-year-old with Stamford Bridge, according to the Evening Standard.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Timo Werner: Tottenham are keen on making the 28-year-old RB Leipzig and Germany forward’s loan deal permanent, but are in no rush to trigger a £14.5million option to buy, according to Four Four Two.

Federico Chiesa: Liverpool and Manchester United want to sign the Italy forward, 26, from Juventus, reports Teamtalk,

Chelsea returned to the top of the Women’s Super League with a controversial 2-0 win over second-bottom West Ham.

Aggie Beever-Jones’ second-minute strike put the visitors’ in control but West Ham should have been level through Honoka Hayashi only for the equaliser to be ruled out for offside.

Replays suggested the goal should have stood but without VAR there was no opportunity to overturn the decision and Erin Cuthbert’s 88th-minute effort saw Chelsea reclaim top spot, level on points with Manchester City but with a goal difference two superior.

Liverpool’s winless streak against neighbours Everton was extended to a fifth league game after a goalless draw at Goodison Park, although the point moved them above Manchester United into fourth.

Beth England’s first league goal of the season saw Tottenham beat bottom side Bristol City 1-0 to move within four points of Liverpool.

The 29-year-old striker, who has struggled with injury, struck in only the second minute to increase Bristol City’s woes as they are now six points adrift with top-three sides Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal still to play in their remaining five matches.

Elisabeth Terland volleyed a fine winner five minutes from time as Brighton edged a five-goal thriller with Leicester.

Lena Petermann had equalised moments earlier for the hosts, who had opened the scoring through Jutta Rantala only for Madison Haley and Katie Robinson to turn things around for Brighton before the late drama.

Chelsea stand on the brink of an “irreversible toxicity” from the fanbase over concerns for the direction of the club, according to the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust.

Despite progress in the cups, Blues boss Mauricio Pochettino has overseen an underwhelming Premier League campaign since arriving at Stamford Bridge last summer.

Chelsea were branded “blue billion-pound bottle jobs” by Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville late on during their 1-0 extra-time defeat against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final last month.

Although Pochettino has since guided Chelsea back to Wembley for an FA Cup semi-final with holders Manchester City in April, questions remain over the long-term vision under co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali in the post-Roman Abramovich era.

The CST wrote to Boehly and Eghbali earlier this month, highlighting how the current lack of engagement or communication by the club has led to an “overwhelming sense of helplessness, frustration and deep concern” among fans.

This, the CST said, had left Chelsea “close to, if not already experiencing, a significant shift in supporter opinion that could result in irreversible toxicity, almost irrespective of results on the pitch”.

During the recent 2-2 draw against Brentford at Stamford Bridge, the CST noted several “anti-ownership chants” could be heard, adding recent dialogue with supporters revealed “a widespread and significant lack of belief in the decision-makers at the top of our club”.

The rising cost of ticket prices, coach travel as well as food and drink in general admission areas was also addressed in the wide-ranging letter from the CST, which called for a “supporter communication strategy” that works for both the club and fans.

In a response from chief executive Chris Jurasek, Chelsea said the club deeply valued “the dedication, commitment and desire from all our supporters” and “strives to be the most successful and admired” in the world – both on and off the pitch.

It added the club was committed to “clear lines of communication and a significant level of transparency”, pointing to the established of the Fan Advisory Board, as well as recognising the concern over rising costs on a matchday.

Jurasek added: “We endeavour to have regular and strong communication with all our supporters, across all our teams, and aim to enhance and improve this connection season-on-season.”

Commenting on Jurasek’s letter, CST chairman Mark Meehan said it “doesn’t really address the issue we raised”.

Meehan added: “There are serious supporter concerns about the direction of the club, and particularly the disconnection felt towards the club ownership, board as well as the majority of the team and the manager.

“We were not questioning the existing supporter engagement mechanisms at Chelsea, including our very open and honest relationships with key individuals such as (director) Danny Finkelstein.

“We were saying that in order to reassure and reset relationships with fans, a much wider form of communication with fans is necessary.”

Meehan’s statement concluded: “A football club belongs to its supporters and the CST will continue to do everything in its power to guarantee that the voices of those supporters are heard from the stands to the boardroom and ensure that Chelsea supporters are at the very centre of every key decision made by the club – we are supporters, not customers.”

Chelsea have been contacted for further comment.

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