Erin Cuthbert says Chelsea’s players are “driven” to give Emma Hayes “the send-off she deserves” as they pursue silverware on four fronts.

Hayes’ trophy-laden 12-year tenure as Blues boss is to conclude this summer when she takes charge of the United States national team.

Chelsea play Arsenal – the only English side to have won a quadruple, in 2007 with Hayes on their coaching staff – in the Women’s Super League at Stamford Bridge on Friday, sitting top, level on points with second-placed Manchester City and three clear of the Gunners.

Also before the end of March they face Ajax in the Champions League quarter-finals and Arsenal in the League Cup final, while last weekend they advanced to an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United.

Midfielder Cuthbert, a Chelsea player since 2016, said: “We’ve done everything right until now, but we have the chance to either go on and be great or win nothing. Emma has reminded us of that.

“We really want to do it for Emma – I certainly do. It’s well and good talking about a potential quadruple but we’re at the point where we can still win absolutely nothing, so the main message is less talk, more action, and make sure when the big moments come we’re ready.

“Emma’s done a lot for me. She’s done so much for the club. I will be grateful for her, and the way she’s sort of driven the women’s game in general as well.

“Whatever happens this season, Emma’s legacy will not be defined in the space of three months, but of course, she’ll want to go out on a high, and I think the players are all driven to give Emma the send-off she deserves.

“I’d love nothing more than to celebrate with her at the end of the season (with) multiple trophies. But that’s only done with a process and giving 100 per cent every day, working hard and giving extra, especially when we’re thin (in terms of availability).

“This is the moment where we need to sort of go up another gear, because the games are coming thick and fast.”

Chelsea have been navigating a busy schedule with some big names out injured, including Sam Kerr and captain Millie Bright, nearing a return from a knee issue.

Both Cuthbert and Niamh Charles have skippered the side in Bright’s absence, a responsibility the 25-year-old Scotland international says she has “certainly enjoyed”.

While Kerr and Mia Fishel have recently been lost to ACL injuries, fellow forward Catarina Macario, signed from Lyon last summer, this month returned from one sustained in June 2022 to score in her first two Chelsea appearances.

Cuthbert said: “It’s the best feeling ever to be a team-mate and witness that, when you have seen someone go through absolute hell – there’s been a lot of blood, sweat, tears, I saw her really down many times.

“Moments like (the goals) hopefully make it all worthwhile for her. It’s no easy route as a footballer coming back from injury, but I think she’s had it especially tough, one of the toughest I’ve seen.”

In December Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal beat Chelsea 4-1 in front of an Emirates Stadium crowd of 59,042.

Ticket sales for Friday reached 30,000 on Monday, and Cuthbert said: “We really need the fans. We felt how much fans played a big role in them beating us, it certainly can be the 12th player, and we need to use that on Friday.”

Chelsea are chasing a seventh, and fifth successive, WSL title. They have also won five FA Cups under Hayes, including the last three, and two League Cups, and were Champions League runners-up in 2021.

What the papers say

Liverpool have expressed their faith in Colombian winger Luis Diaz after telling Spanish giants Barcelona that the 27-year-old is not for sale and is a part of their long-term plans, the Daily Mirror reports. Diaz has scored six goals and created three more in 27 games in the Premier League for the club this season.

The Mirror says Manchester United have set a price tag of £43million on striker Mason Greenwood with an unnamed Saudi Pro League interested in the 22-year-old’s signature. The forward has spent the season in La Liga at Spanish club Getafe on loan where he has scored six goals and assisted five more in 23 matches.

The Daily Mail reports Chelsea could be looking to offload several stars this summer including Raheem Sterling, Romelu Lukaku, Trevoh Chalobah and Marc Cucurella.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Viktor Gyokeres: Arsenal have made the Swedish forward their number one target this summer with the Sporting Lisbon player having a £85million release clause in his contract, according to Football Transfers.

Willian Pacho: Liverpool and Arsenal are interested in the 22-year-old Ecuadorian defender at Eintracht Frankfurt, 90min says.

Chelsea forward Mia Fishel has successfully undergone surgery for an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury sustained on international duty with the United States.

The striker tore the ligament in her right knee just before the inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup, where the USA ultimately beat Brazil 1-0 for the trophy.

The injury also rules the 22-year-old out of this summer’s Paris Olympics, where the United States will be coached by Emma Hayes, who will depart Chelsea at the end of this season to take over the US women’s national team.

Posting on X, Fishel shared a photograph of herself perched on two crutches and giving a thumbs-up, alongside a caption which read: “I’d like to thank my management and medical teams for a successful surgery today.

“I want to thank the United States women’s team and Chelsea Women for their unwavering support during this critical time.

“Exciting projects for 2024 are on the way and I look forward to sharing a more personal side of Mia.”

Fishel joined Chelsea from Mexican side Tigres on a three-year deal last August and has made 10 appearances for the Blues, scoring on her debut in October with a header in the Blues’ 2-1 victory over Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.

Mauricio Pochettino warned there will be more problems for Chelsea if they fail to build on their 3-2 victory over Newcastle at Stamford Bridge as he praised the impact of match-winning substitute Mykhailo Mudryk.

The Ukrainian came off the bench to score with a superb individual goal to make it 3-1 in the 76th minute, pelting on to the ball at full tilt before tricking his way beyond a dumbfounded Fabian Schar and nipping round Martin Dubravka to finish.

“It was a very good goal and that is what we expect from a player from the bench – impact,” said Pochettino. “Then it is about competing with different players in his position. Then he will deserve to (start).”

The goal helped settle a finely balanced game, the kind that has so often slipped away from Chelsea under Pochettino.

They had already allowed an advantage to get away from them on the stroke of half-time.

Leading 1-0, Chelsea made two errors to hand Newcastle a way back into the match. First, the otherwise impressive Malo Gusto was caught trying to juggle the ball in midfield, then Trevoh Chalobah rushed up from central defence to assist and left a gaping hole into which Alexander Isak darted and rifled the visitors level.

Earlier, Nicolas Jackson had given his team a deserved sixth-minute lead, applying the deftest touch with his heel to Cole Palmer’s strike, getting just enough contact to divert it out of the reach of Dubravka and into the bottom corner.

Palmer, brilliant again on the right of a forward three, scored a 13th goal of his debut Chelsea season early in the second half.

Enzo Fernandez spotted the Blues’ top-scorer in space and gave the ball to him with his back to goal. With his first touch Palmer turned and with his second he lashed a shot inside the near post for 2-1.

Then came Mudryk’s decisive moment of magic and, although Jacob Ramsey gave Chelsea a scare with a cracking late drive from range, Pochettino’s young side clung on.

“We need to understand that we are Chelsea,” said Pochettino. “We are in a project that is completely different (to the past). Some people might be confused. When people don’t want to listen, it’s difficult.

“But we are trying to explain we are a different Chelsea, we are building something different. It’s going to be tough.

“We need to keep believing, even when it’s tough circumstances. We played (the Carabao Cup) final, 120 minutes, then after three days we play the FA Cup and we play Brentford. In six days we played three very tough games, nearly with the same team.

“It was really tough. If that means we are a disaster, OK. The most important thing is it’s not affecting the team. They know what they need to do and we keep believing.

“The win today is important for our fans to be a little bit more calm. But I think if we don’t win our next game, it’s going to be again a problem. That is Chelsea.”

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe reflected on a match that had been there for the taking before Mudryk’s late strike.

“I thought it was a game in the balance and an open game,” he said. “The game got away from us with the goals we conceded which were really poor from our perspective – they were self-induced.

“Wherever you play you have to pride yourself on being tight and I don’t think Chelsea had an abundance of chances tonight.

“But the way the goals came from our perspective is hugely frustrating as we know the details have to get better.”

Mykhailo Mudryk scored a sensational solo goal as Chelsea kept alive slender hopes of qualifying for Europe via the Premier League with a 3-2 win over Newcastle at Stamford Bridge.

At 2-1 late in the second half, the result was in the balance but it was tipped decisively in Chelsea’s favour by a moment of magic from the substitute, taking the ball off Conor Gallagher’s foot at top speed and bamboozling his way beyond defender Fabian Schar before rounding the goalkeeper and finishing.

The win marked a significant step forward for Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who have so often allowed balanced duels – as this undoubtedly was – to slip away from them.

Nicolas Jackson gave them a sixth-minute lead with a smart backheeled goal from Cole Palmer’s shot, before Alexander Isak rifled Newcastle level at the end of the half.

Palmer got his 13th of the season to restore the lead, a brilliant, driven finish from range.

Mudryk’s goal with 15 minutes to go looked to have settled it before Jacob Murphy made Chelsea think with a superb 90th-minute strike, but the hosts hung on for a deserved win.

Struggling in 11th, they had needed all the aid they could muster, and were promptly handed a boost by Newcastle defender Sven Botman after six minutes.

Malo Gusto’s low cross was well pitched but should have been an easy mop-up job for Botman. Instead, he carelessly swept the ball to the right boot of Palmer, whose tame shot from outside the box was intelligently flicked home via the deftest backheeled touch from Jackson.

Raheem Sterling looked determined that a strong start should not go to waste, muscling beyond Tino Livramento down the left and offloading to Jackson to strike low at goal, this time easily saved by Martin Dubravka.

Yet the one-goal lead was fragile, and Chelsea were exposed when Trevoh Chalobah headed a weak clearance straight to Anthony Gordon who shot wide.

Isak was inches from connecting with Murphy’s cross as it zipped across the face of goal, then skied over from two yards out as the ball came back in, comfortably the visitors’ clearest chance of the half so far.

European qualification through the league is still not beyond Chelsea. Victory here would take them to within four points of seventh-place West Ham with a game in hand, but consistency has been this team’s downfall under Pochettino.

In the final minutes of the half, they allowed Newcastle back in. The hitherto impressive Gusto was caught trying to juggle the ball in midfield. Chalobah raced up to take charge, but he was dispossessed by Bruno Guimaraes and was caught horribly out of position.

The ball broke to Isak, who skipped inside the box and curled an exquisite shot around Axel Disasi and beyond the dive of Djordje Petrovic.

Chelsea might still have led at the break had Sterling’s driven 18-yard effort been hit either side of Dubravka. In truth though, 1-1 was a fair conclusion to a balanced half.

Sterling came close again at the start of the second period, bursting into the box and lashing a shot narrowly wide at the near post.

Chelsea were looking the more confident side on the ball, penning Newcastle inside their own half, and they retook the lead on 57 minutes.

Enzo Fernandez collected the ball centrally and fed it in to Palmer, receiving with his back to goal 20 yards out. The home side’s top scorer took one touch to turn inside and then crashed it with his left foot inside Dubravka’s near post.

Sterling should have put it beyond doubt minutes later, carrying the ball around the goalkeeper but denied on the line by Dan Burn who was covering.

There were a few nerve-jangling moments as the visitors tested Chelsea’s defence with balls into the box that were cleared not wholly convincingly.

Then came a moment of magic from Mudryk and, despite Murphy’s late rocket, at last a glimmer of a happy ending to a turbulent season.

Mauricio Pochettino has insisted he will never quit Chelsea and hit out at “completely unfair” criticism of his young team.

The 52-year-old Argentinian has seen his side unfavourably compared to Blues teams of the past since taking over in July, with the London club having won five Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues during the last two decades.

Pochettino’s team are 11th in the table ahead of Monday’s meeting at home to Newcastle, however, with a second consecutive season without European competition appearing almost certain.

Supporters have turned on the head coach and his players in recent weeks, including last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Brentford when the team surrendered a first-half lead and dodged defeat only with a late equaliser.

Monday’s game will be their first in the league in front of their own fans since being booed off at the end of a 4-2 defeat to Wolves early in February, and there was also criticism after they failed to beat a depleted Liverpool team in the Carabao Cup final two weeks ago.

Chelsea have the youngest squad in the league since co-owner Todd Boehly embarked on a mission to clear out the club’s more established players in favour of expensive but less experienced recruits, and Pochettino feels some of the analysis has been out of order.

“I feel young,” he said. “I don’t feel 52. It’s true that (the players) are young, but we like to help them. We like to talk, to train, to support. We are supporting them.

“The fans don’t know. The players are so young, playing at Wembley in a final. Maybe they didn’t sleep the night before. Sometimes, to analyse with different parameters and the way that you assess is completely unfair.

“Today it is a different Chelsea. If you are going to judge us, comparing the past of Chelsea, for sure no-one is going to win. No-one is going to succeed. No-one is going to be nice with you.

“The fans are not going to love any more another coach at Chelsea. If you compare with the past, when you are in a different project, people need to understand. I’ve tried to explain. I talk, I move my mouth, but you don’t hear.

“I knew it was going to be tough. I knew we were going to need time and belief. The project is about young players, building a new team.”

Asked if he would consider walking away, he replied: “No. Why? Never.”

The situation is in marked contrast to Pochettino’s previous role as head coach at Paris St Germain, where he worked with an established squad assembled by owners who prioritised signing experienced players ready to compete for the biggest honours.

“We love challenge,” Pochettino said. “We came from a different project at Paris St Germain.

“Here the challenge is massive. We accepted to come here knowing that it’s never easy. The pressure and the feeling that you are Chelsea and you need to win.

“But we are so excited to be here and support this project.”

Mauricio Pochettino has revealed he spent the evening of his 52nd birthday watching football with his coaching staff as they sought to “heal” from Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Brentford.

The Argentinian opted for Valencia v Real Madrid and a glass of wine over time with his family, hours after his team were booed by their own supporters at the Gtech Stadium.

Chelsea’s faint hopes of qualifying for Europe are rapidly diminishing, ahead of Monday’s Premier League game at home to Newcastle.

The meeting with Eddie Howe’s side at Stamford Bridge will be the first league outing in front of their own fans since the team were jeered off at the end of a 4-2 loss to Wolves more than a month ago.

And there were signs of disquiet too during the narrow FA Cup win against Championship side Leeds.

The team’s only defeat in their last five games came after extra-time in the Carabao Cup final to Liverpool at the end of February, a run Pochettino has been keen to talk up.

However, the draw with Brentford – earned via a late Axel Disasi goal after the home side had fought back from a goal down to lead 2-1 – left the manager in no mood for celebrating his birthday.

“Saturday after the Brentford game, the draw was like a defeat,” he said.

“My coaching staff were with me at home. We finished the day watching Valencia v Real Madrid, more football. We shared a glass of wine. But nothing exciting. Only watching football.

“I think that healed, watching more football. The last few days I watched the Champions League, the Championship, the Asian Champions League.”

Asked how his wife, with whom he marked 31 years of marriage the day before Chelsea’s Christmas Eve defeat to Wolves, deals with these moments, he said:  “She knows very well because the mood is not good.

“When the mood is not good, it’s not easy for the family. The responsibility is to win and provide good feelings to our fans, the people that trust in us.

“Five games we didn’t lose in 90 minutes, you could say it was a good run. But the draw with Brentford appeared again the problems.”

After Newcastle comes an FA Cup quarter-final at home to Leicester next Sunday as the team chase down their last realistic hope of salvaging a bleak season.

Pochettino would not be drawn to look ahead however, pointing instead to the need for players returning from injury to reacclimatise, particularly after Ben Chilwell, Conor Gallagher and Levi Colwill joined an already lengthy absentee list.

“The most important thing is Monday,” he said. “I don’t want to think about Leicester. It’s important because of the circumstances. We’re going have three players less.

“We’re working really hard to see how we’re going to provide balance to the team. Players coming back from injury like (Marc) Cucurella, whether he can deal with 90 minutes. Trevoh Chalobah after seven, eight months (out). We’re managing his load.

“Always it is a risk. That is why the most important is Monday.”

Mauricio Pochettino said he would have joined in with jeering Chelsea fans who booed his team against Brentford had he been a supporter, as he confirmed three more of his players have succumbed to injury and illness.

The Argentinian was without eight squad members for Saturday’s 2-2 draw at the Gtech Stadium, when away fans turned on their own team after they threw away a first-half lead and needed a late Axel Disasi goal to avoid an 11th Premier League loss of the season.

Now he faces also being without Ben Chilwell, who has been sent for specialist treatment on a knee problem, and Levi Colwill, who has an injured toe, for Monday’s game against Newcastle at Stamford Bridge.

Of greatest concern to Pochettino however will be the fitness of Conor Gallagher, one of his most consistent performers this season, who has not trained since the Brentford game and is suffering from a virus.

“He’s not here the last three days,” said Pochettino of the 24-year-old. “We’ll see if Saturday or tomorrow he has the possibility to train.

“The problem with these situations is you lose weight and energy is down, and you need time to recover. We need to assess him in the next few days.”

Pochettino has consistently pointed to the impact that injuries have had on his team’s progress since he took charge in July.

He has rarely enjoyed an absentee list of fewer than seven players, and is likely to be without as many as 10 for the visit of Eddie Howe’s side.

One of the more frustrating aspects for the 52-year-old has been recurring injuries, with Chilwell, Reece James, Christopher Nkunku and Romeo Lavia all spending more than one extended spell on the sidelines, while Wesley Fofana is expected to miss the entire season.

Gallagher’s absence is likely to be particularly felt as he has played in an influential role in almost every game since the manager took charge.

Pochettino said he empathised with fans who booed his side against Brentford, but countered that circumstances have ultimately put paid to any chance of success this season.

“We need our fans,” he said. “I hope they will be behind us on Monday. It’s so, so important to our players.

“But we need to accept that it’s football. They are frustrated. Maybe if I was a fan in the stand I would behave the same way as them.

“If you want to be consistent and you want to fight for big things, you need to be consistent. How? With the full squad, keeping the ideas, improving in training, with the capacity to train every single day.

“When that’s not there, we can manage circumstance, but in the end, we are only managing circumstance. We will never have the capacity to have the full squad to compete between each other.

“When you suffer too many negative things, like now we lose three players after Saturday (injured), that is not about the quality of the coaching staff, or the capacity to play more offensive or defensive. It’s about the circumstances.

“People want to understand? Perfect. They don’t want to understand, what can we do?”

Chelsea have announced pre-tax losses of £90.1million in the 12 months up to June 2023, their first full year under the ownership of Todd Boehly’s Clearlake Capital consortium.

The figure, an improvement on the previous years’ loss of £121.4m, was also listed in the accounts filed for holding company Blueco, via which Boehly purchased the club from former owner Roman Abramovich in May 2022.

Blueco itself, which also owns French Ligue 1 side Strasbourg, recorded losses of £653m from its founding in March 2022 up to June 2023.

Chelsea’s turnover is up from £481.3m in 2021/22 to £512.5m, thanks in part to player sales as the club has offloaded a substantial number of its more experienced squad members since Clearlake took ownership.

Broadcasting revenue has been hit by the team’s failure to qualify for European competition last season, dropping by £9.1m to £255.9m.

Premier League rules state a club can have made a loss no greater than £105m over a three-year period, meaning there are likely to be further player sales required in the coming months in order to remain within regulations, particularly with qualification for Europe via their league position looking unlikely this campaign.

Emma Hayes insists Chelsea are fully standing behind Sam Kerr after it was revealed the striker had pleaded not guilty to racially aggravated harassment of a police officer.

The Australia captain was charged with causing a police officer harassment, alarm or distress during an incident in Twickenham, south-west London, on January 30 last year, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Kerr, of Richmond, denied the charge at a plea and trial preparation hearing at Kingston upon Thames Crown Court on Monday.

Blues boss Hayes said: “Sam has our full support. She knows that. It’s a difficult time for her.

“Of course I can’t comment, you know that. I can say I know she’s pleaded not guilty and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardise anything for Sam by speaking about it.

“For that reason, I’m sure you can appreciate that’s all I’m going to say on the matter, but she has our full support, she knows that, it’s really important I get that across. It’s something I really, really, value.

“There’s difficult moments, tough times, and that’s what my role is at this football club, to make sure I look after our people, and I want to make it clear that Sam will be supported by me and everybody else.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said the incident involved an officer who was responding to a complaint about a taxi fare.

Kerr is due to face trial next February, according to reports.

The 30-year-old is two months into a lengthy period on the sidelines after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury during the Blues’ warm-weather training camp in Morocco.

Four-time defending Women’s Super League champions Chelsea are still on course to be the only English side other than Arsenal’s women in 2006-07 to achieve a quadruple, having secured a place in Thursday night’s Conti Cup semi-final with Manchester City and will play their FA Cup quarter-final at Everton on Sunday.

Leg one of their Champions League quarter-final awaits at the end of the month, while the Blues are also square with City on 37 points at the top of the WSL table, leading the pack only on goal difference.

When the two sides met in league action last month it was City who emerged victorious, smashing Chelsea’s 33-match unbeaten WSL run at Kingsmeadow, breaking open the title chase and setting up a tantalising finish to the league campaign.

Asked if Hayes would be seeking revenge, she said: “This is not Star Wars. This is no Death Star-destroying moment. Revenge for me is something I don’t really think about when it comes to football.

“I love being in these games, I know the team loves being in these situations, so I look forward to it.”

What the papers say

Manchester United and Paris St Germain have emerged as the frontrunners to land the signature of Victor Osimhen in the summer. According to The Independent, Chelsea and Arsenal are also interested in the Napoli forward.

The Telegraph reports Newcastle are edging closer to inking a new deal with midfielder Joelinton. The 27-year-old has little over a year left on his current deal, but the two parties are believed to be on similar terms with negotiations proving productive thus far.

Tottenham have reportedly taken an interest in Sporting Lisbon midfielder Morten Hjulmand. The Sun, citing Portuguese paper Record, says Spurs sent scouts to watch the Denmark international in action as Sporting beat rivals Benfica 2-1 last Thursday, with a view to a potential summer move for the 24-year-old.

And the i says Newcastle intend to send 19-year-old winger Yankuba Minteh out on loan for a second successive season. Minteh has been at Dutch side Feyenoord this season.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Alphonso Davies: Real Madrid are willing to offer as much as £43m for the Bayern Munich defender, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Archie Brown: HITC reports Chelsea, Leeds and West Ham are all monitoring the English defender, currently playing for Belgian side Gent.

On this day in 2012, Andre Villas-Boas left Chelsea as former midfielder Roberto Di Matteo was appointed interim manager until the end of the season.

Villas-Boas, 34, lost the job he had held for just eight months less than 24 hours after a 1-0 defeat at West Brom which left the Blues sitting in fifth place in the Premier League table and having won just five of their previous 15 games in all competitions.

The Portuguese had been recruited at great expense – around £13.3million – as Carlo Ancelotti’s replacement by then Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich in June 2011 and handed the task of overhauling an ageing squad after winning a remarkable quadruple with Porto.

However, he quickly found himself under pressure and reports of dressing room unrest coupled with faltering form prompted the club to act ahead of an FA Cup trip to Birmingham and an impending Champions League showdown with Napoli.

In a statement, they said: “Unfortunately the results and performances of the team have not been good enough and were showing no signs of improving at a key time in the season.

“The club is still competing in the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup, as well as challenging for a top-four spot in the Premier League, and we aim to remain as competitive as possible on all fronts.

“With that in mind, we felt our only option was to make a change at this time.”

Assistant Di Matteo was placed in temporary charge and made rather a good fist of it, at least initially.

The Italian guided Chelsea to FA Cup final victory over Liverpool and then famously at the Allianz Arena, a dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final as Didier Drogba, whose late header had taken the game to extra time, converted the decisive spot-kick to complete Abramovich’s quest for European glory.

Di Matteo’s reward was a permanent two-year contract, although his reign too proved short-lived when he was sacked after just five months at the helm.

Mauricio Pochettino shrugged off the jeers from Chelsea fans after a section of them turned on him during the 2-2 draw at Brentford.

The Blues were leading through a Nicolas Jackson header but were pegged back by Mads Roerslev’s close-range strike after half-time.

And shortly after Yoane Wissa put Brentford ahead with a spectacular overhead kick, the away fans began singing the name of former manager Jose Mourinho as well as calling for Pochettino to go.

But the Blues at least rescued a point on Pochettino’s 52nd birthday after Axel Disasi scored a late equaliser.

Afterwards the Argentinian boss insisted he does not need to be loved by the supporters.

“I’ve been told, I didn’t hear to be honest, it’s difficult for me to understand,” he said.

“But it’s normal, we were losing the game 2-1 and they expressed their frustration. I am one of the ones responsible, I’m the coach.

“I was asked before if I feel the love from the fans. No. I’m not worried – we need to accept this relationship. You win your relationship through winning games.

“I will continue to work and try to change this perception. We need to manage some reality. We are working really hard to try to win games, the team is fighting.

“If it doesn’t work and the fans are disappointed I need to respect their opinion. I think the relationship is good. If they did what they did, fans are emotional.

“I am fighting with all my sense to try to provide a team to play in the best way to score goals and win games. Today is my 52nd birthday, I know this business, but I’m going to fight.”

Brentford have a lengthy injury list but are still admirably keeping their heads above the relegation scrap.

Bees boss Thomas Frank felt he got the response he wanted from his patched-up side after the 4-2 defeat at West Ham on Monday.

“I would have loved three points, but it was a relatively even game in terms of chances,” said Frank.

“I’m very pleased with the response after a bad performance at West Ham. Today I must say, impressive.

“Three years ago when we got promoted Chelsea won the Champions League, and I think they have renewed their squad since then.

“We had seven players out injured, they had a full squad, and we battered them in the second half. This was a proper Brentford performance.”

There were a smattering of boos from the home supporters at half-time but Frank said: “I heard that. I’d like to speak to them. Is that support?

“I know I can’t swear, but what the…?”

Chelsea fans turned on Mauricio Pochettino as they watched their side labour to a 2-2 draw at west London rivals Brentford.

The Blues were leading through a Nicolas Jackson header but were pegged back by Mads Roerslev’s close-range strike.

And shortly after Yoane Wissa put Brentford ahead with a spectacular overhead kick, the away fans began singing the name of former manager Jose Mourinho as well as calling for Pochettino to go.

But the Blues at least rescued a point on Pochettino’s 52nd birthday after Axel Disasi scored a late equaliser.

Jackson probably summed up his erratic first season leading the Chelsea line in the space of 10 first-half minutes.

First the Senegal forward embarked on a promising run into the Brentford area, only to try one step-over too many and somehow tackle himself.

Then he latched onto Enzo Fernandez’s through-ball, took it round Bees keeper Mark Flekken and rolled it towards an empty net.

However, he undercooked his finish and allowed Mathias Jorgensen to get back and hack the ball clear from underneath the crossbar.

But 10 minutes before half-time Jackson did brilliantly to leap between Bees centre-halves Jorgensen and Kristoffer Ajer and meet Malo Gusto’s cross with a powerful header to open the scoring.

Pochettino had bemoaned his side’s injury problems this season before the match, but Brentford’s have been horrendous.

Ben Mee’s fractured ankle at West Ham on Monday made him the fifth Bees player to suffer a season-ending injury, and with Ethan Pinnock, Rico Henry and Aaron Hickey also sidelined an entire back four has been wiped out.

For a team who were without key striker Ivan Toney for half a season and are still missing fellow frontmen Bryan Mbeumo and Kevin Schade, the fact that they are not even deeper in the relegation scrap seems remarkable in itself.

Yet their resolve could never be questioned and the patched-up Bees duly hauled themselves level five minutes after half-time when Toney launched the ball into the area.

Sergio Reguilon’s shot was blocked but the ball rolled to wing-back Roerslev who lashed it past Djordje Petrovic.

They almost led two minutes later when Vitaly Janelt fired through a sea of Blue bodies and shaved the foot of the post.

But Chelsea blew a golden chance when Gusto led a four-versus-two counter-attack and squared the ball to Cole Palmer, who scuffed wide from 10 yards out.

It looked like a costly miss in the 68th minute when Reguilon crossed from the left, Frank Onyeka kept the loose ball alive and the Wissa acrobatically hooked it into the roof of the net.

But with seven minutes remaining Disasi arrived at the far post to head home a cross from Palmer and snatch a point for Pochettino.

Mauricio Pochettino insists Reece James will not be rushed back from the hamstring injury that has disrupted his season, even if a delayed return costs him a place in England’s Euro 2024 squad.

The club captain has made just eight Premier League appearances this campaign and is at risk of missing out on a second international tournament in as many years, having been ruled out of the 2022 World Cup with a knee problem.

He featured only 16 times in the league last season when a combination of knee and hamstring injuries kept him on the sidelines for club and country.

And after being forced off during August’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool he has had even worse luck this term.

The 24-year-old, who has only once in his Chelsea career reached 30 league appearances in a season, teased on social media this week that “the comeback is coming” and has returned to the training pitch, albeit working separately from his team-mates.

However, with a history of recurring fitness problems, Pochettino was understandably cautious about reintroducing him and was adamant he would not be hurried back for the sake of his international place.

“I cannot say the date of when it’s possible,” said the Argentinian. “His target and our target is for him to be fit and feel happy and well. Then we’ll see about the possibility of going to the Euros or not, or to be ready for next season or to play before we finish this season.

“The most important thing now is to build his confidence, his physical condition, to recover all the good feelings.

“The target is not to try and play the last five games or in the Euros or pre-season. The target is to build again his confidence and to feel strong, then to start to play when he feels strong and can deal again with the competition.”

Despite establishing himself as a key figure for Chelsea when fit, James has so far made just a single major tournament appearance, starting for Gareth Southgate’s side in a goalless draw with Scotland at Euro 2020.

He looked set to be a member of the squad in Qatar until a knee injury in a Champions League match against AC Milan scuppered his chances.

“I didn’t speak with (Southgate),” said Pochettino. “But we have spoken people involved in (the FA), medical, performance people.

“It’s not ‘now I can go on the pitch, I can play’. It’s to be sure we can go to the competition and he can feel strong and can forget all that has happened in the past.”

James will be one of seven players unavailable to Pochettino at Brentford on Saturday.

Injures have severely disrupted the seasons of Christopher Nkunku, Romeo Lavia, Lesley Ugochukwu and Carney Chukwuemeka, whilst Wesley Fofana is likely to be forced to miss the entire campaign.

The manager reiterated his frustration at the impact injuries have had on his first season in charge.

“When you start the season, you put in your head the idea of the potential of the squad,” he said. “When you think about Nkunku, Reece, (Ben) Chilwell or Fofana, Lavia, (Moises) Caicedo, you imagine the players in the best place, with all their potential.

“Then when the circumstances happen, of course it’s about translating the reality. If you go back and say ‘no, you said we can play to win the Premier League’ – when you see the possibility that you have with the squad, then of course.

“But then with the circumstance, the reality, we’ve had 10, 12 players every single week out. That will affect the performance of the team.”

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