What the papers say

Big changes could be in the pipeline at Chelsea on and off the pitch this summer, according to various reports. The Daily Mail says Sporting Lisbon boss Ruben Amorim is a possible replacement for manager Mauricio Pochettino.

On the field, the club are looking to sell defender Trevoh Chalobah, 24, and Albania forward Armando Broja, 22, according to The Daily Telegraph. England midfielder Conor Gallagher, 24, and Spain left-back Marc Cucurella, 25, could also leave in the summer.

Summer changes are also expected at Manchester United. The Manchester Evening News says Brazil winger Antony, 24, is among the players they would be prepared to sell.

Victor Osimhen is eyeing a move to the Premier League, according to The Sun. Arsenal and Chelsea are believed to be heading the race for the Napoli striker, 25, although Manchester United and Paris St Germain are also reportedly  interested.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Alphonso Davies: Real Madrid have reached agreement to sign the Bayern Munich and Canada left-back, 23, in the summer or next year, according to The Athletic.

Joao Palhinha: Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Arsenal are chasing the Fulham and Portugal midfielder, 28, reports Football Insider.

Mauricio Pochettino insisted there is nothing personal between him and Jurgen Klopp ahead of Chelsea’s Carabao Cup final meeting with Liverpool on Sunday. (The final of the Carabao Cup between Chelsea and Liverpool will be aired live at 10:00/11:00 EST)

The pair faced off in the 2019 Champions League final when the Argentinian was in charge of Tottenham, losing 2-0 in Madrid to hand his opposite number a first trophy at Anfield.

The game is remembered for controversy after Spurs’ Moussa Sissoko was penalised for a contentious handball inside the opening minute, resulting in Mohamed Salah giving Liverpool the lead from the spot.

More recently the Reds were 4-1 winners against Chelsea in the Premier League at the end of January, when Pochettino’s side were outclassed by their hosts and fell well short of expectations set by the more than £1billion it cost to assemble their squad.

Since then there has been a notable upturn in performances, with three impressive away results including a 1-1 draw against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium a week ago.

As he seeks his first silverware in England, the 51-year-old said neither he nor his players are motivated by revenge against their Wembley opponents.

“It’s nothing against Jurgen Klopp or Liverpool,” he said. “We love to compete with the best teams and Liverpool as a club, and Klopp with his coaching staff and the players, I think they are amazing. You love to compete with this type of organisation.

“It’s not personal against Klopp or against Liverpool to have revenge. It’s a challenge for us to say ‘we have the possibility to write history, winning a trophy’. That is our biggest motivation. That is my motivation.”

Chelsea followed the loss on Merseyside with a dismal 4-2 defeat at home to Wolves that saw sections of the home support boo the team off.

Since then, the atmosphere around the club has improved significantly, with the draw at City preceded by consecutive 3-1 wins at Aston Villa and Crystal Palace that have injected renewed hope into the team’s season.

“We didn’t compete (at Anfield),” said Pochettino. “If you see the first two minutes, we didn’t match them in the capacity to compete. We created some chances and there (should have been) a penalty after five minutes with (Conor) Gallagher that may change the situation.

“But the most important thing now in this process is to challenge ourselves to be better. If you want to challenge another person, but you are not ready… You need to put your body and your mind in the best condition. If we are in the best condition, we are going to challenge.”

Pochettino rejected the suggestion that victory on Sunday would prompt critics to move on from the huge transfer outlay expended by co-owner Todd Boehly since he took control in May 2022.

“It’s not easy in football,” he said. “It’s not an ordinary business. People know that it’s not only about spending money. It helps, but it’s not only.

“You need time if you want to build something. That is the process that we are involved in now.

“You cannot buy victories. You cannot buy trophies. Money helps, but it doesn’t give trophies.”

Mauricio Pochettino has urged the match officials not to be swayed by the focus on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool farewell in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.

Klopp will leave Anfield in the summer after almost nine years in charge and Sunday marks this season’s first chance to add to his seven trophies with the club.

Pochettino insisted his side “want to win because of Chelsea,” rather than being motivated by a desire to spoil Klopp’s farewell.

But he admitted he was unhappy with refereeing decisions in the recent league meeting between the teams, feeling his side should have had penalties for Virgil van Dijk’s challenges on Conor Gallagher in the first half and Christopher Nkunku in the second.

In quotes reported by several national newspapers regarding pressure on the outgoing Reds boss, the Argentinian added: “It is not pressure for him. Maybe it is for the people who want to celebrate with Liverpool.

“We need to be sure we are going to compete and be fair in every decision. At Anfield, I think too many decisions… not one key decision was for us.

“Two penalties were not given. Duels, 50-50s, always for another colour. Always red. I want to be treated in a fair way.

“The first decision after five minutes was a clear penalty. In the second half it was a penalty. The pressure is about not delivering the job for Klopp, the pressure is not to be part of the (hype).

“Of course, we are going to celebrate (Klopp’s reign). I am the first who is going to say that Liverpool is amazing and Klopp is one of the best coaches in the world.

“But I think after my last experience, what I want in Wembley is to not feel the pressure. It is to play a game at the same level and the best team will win. But not to feel the pressure of people around.”

Mauricio Pochettino believes Chelsea are “awake” after recent results that have altered the course of their season ahead of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.

The meeting with Liverpool at Wembley will be the club’s first final since co-owner Todd Boehly took charge and embarked on a radical overhaul that has so far not brought success.

It comes after wins away at Aston Villa in the FA Cup and Crystal Palace in the Premier League, which were followed by a fine draw against champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium a week ago.

Those three performances have significantly changed the perception of Pochettino’s rebuilding of the team, after the last home game – a 4-2 defeat to Wolves at Stamford Bridge early in February – saw Chelsea booed off the pitch by sections of their own support.

Days earlier they were soundly beaten 4-1 at Anfield by Sunday’s opponents, a disjointed performance in which the team looked to be in disarray and well short of expectations set by the more than £1billion spent by Boehly on recruitment.

Now the the Argentinian is confident that the last three weeks have brought a significant change in his players’ ability to compete at Wembley with title-chasing Liverpool.

“We will need to manage some moments during the game,” he said. “But I think in the last few weeks we’ve learned a lot, we’ve stepped up from (the defeat at Anfield). We arrive with very good momentum.

“After competing against Villa, Palace and Manchester City, it’s provided the team with the confidence and the trust.

“The team is awake to the competition. There was a click to change in the way we compete, that we were missing in the first half of the season.

“The circumstances are completely different (now), for us and for (Liverpool).”

Since the game at Anfield, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has lost a number of key players to injury including Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson Becker, Diogo Jota and Curtis Jones.

Pochettino has selection worries of his own, with Thiago Silva to be assessed having missed the last three games.

Goalkeeper Robert Sanchez is available after injury but Djordje Petrovic, who has impressed since coming into the side early in December, could keep his place.

Klopp has stated he believes his team are not favourites at Wembley, an idea the Chelsea manager rejects.

“(Klopp) is clever enough,” said Pochettino. “He knows that when you play a final, anything can happen. If they’re not the favourite, then we are not the favourite.

“For me Liverpool is the favourite. After eight years they have the experience to compete like a team, and be involved in different finals.

“For our players, it’s new. For some of them it’s maybe their first final. That’s why they are favourites, in my opinion. But he is clever enough to say it’s 50-50.”

Pochettino added that his team may ultimately be stronger for their chastening night on Merseyside in January.

“In this type of process, you need that these type of things happen,” he said. “You need to really wake up about the situation.

“The team needs to learn from the good and the not-so-good experiences. It was positive.

“After Liverpool, that result was completely unfair. But maybe that was good for us, to feel the pain, the negative situation, to be stronger now, and to find the way to compete better.”

Malo Gusto believes Mauricio Pochettino is “waking up” a winning mentality in Chelsea’s young squad as they prepare for Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.

The Argentinian’s resurgent team face Liverpool at Wembley looking to claim the club’s first silverware since co-owner Todd Boehly took over in May 2022.

In that time there has been an almost total overhaul of personnel both on the pitch and behind the scenes, with over £1billion spent on assembling a team with the youngest average age in the Premier League.

After a slow start there was been notable improvement in recent weeks, culminating in a fine performance in ending champions Manchester City’s winning run at home with a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

However, Pochettino and his players are yet to convince everyone. The team were booed off by fans following their last home game, a 4-2 defeat to Wolves at Stamford Bridge, with supporters’ frustrations also being directed at the manager personally.

Sunday’s final could be a key indicator as to whether a corner has truly been turned following the City draw and impressive wins away at Aston Villa and Crystal Palace.

And defender Gusto – a key figure during the recent upturn in results, deputising at right-back for injured captain and England international Reece James – praised his manager for working to instil a winning attitude.

“He (Pochettino) is here for this,” said the 20-year-old. “He knows he has to wake up our mentality, to wake up our desire to win everything. We are Chelsea and a big club like Chelsea has to win everything, to keep fighting.

“He helps us a lot. He has tried to show us the desire to win, to keep fighting against every team. He talks to us a lot about tactics, technique and everything.

“He is a good person as well. He tries to help us a lot on the pitch and off it as well. He is a good coach for this young team.”

Gusto has been one of the outstanding performers of Chelsea’s recent recruits.

Signed from Lyon for £30.7million in January 2023, he was loaned back to the Ligue 1 side for remainder of last season before making his mark during the current campaign.

He has made 24 appearances in all competitions, after a recurring hamstring injury limited James to just nine.

A forward player in his youth, he has evolved into an effective attacking full-back and he has made four assists in the league, most recently setting up Conor Gallagher’s equaliser in the 3-1 win at Palace with a pinpoint low cross.

He made his senior debut for France as a substitute in a 2-1 win against the Netherlands in October.

He said he was not daunted by the prospect of dislodging James from the team before signing for Chelsea, adding: “I wasn’t thinking about what could happen. I just wanted to take my chance.

“If I can play, I play. I’ve stayed focus on my football. I work every day to become better, to improve. That’s what I do.

“We are not similar, (James) and me. He’s a bit different, but when we are on the pitch we try to keep a mentality to score and to assist.

“I work for (getting better going forward). I have good cardio, good legs. This is my football. When I was younger, I was the same, running every day. When your team-mates see you run a lot, you want to run a lot with them.”

The defender came in for particular praise for the way he dealt defensively with City’s Jeremy Doku during Saturday’s draw at the Etihad Stadium.

“I came to Chelsea because I wanted to play against great players. I think the game was complicated, but it was good for me to learn.

“(The praise) is nice, but I don’t really care about it, I just want to to become a better person and better player.

“The game against Doku, people talk about it, but it’s just one game. Maybe this weekend I could be s*** and the game after I could be better.”

Pep Guardiola refused to blame Erling Haaland for wasting chances after Manchester City were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw by Chelsea on Saturday.

The normally prolific Haaland spurned a number of opportunities, including one glaring free header from six yards out, as the champions were held in a compelling Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium.

City ultimately needed an 83rd-minute equaliser from Rodri to rescue a point after their former forward Raheem Sterling had put the Londoners on course for an unexpected win with a 43rd-minute effort.

City manager Guardiola said: “It’s good to have nine shots and next time he’s going to score.

“I was a football player for 11 years and scored 11 goals. What stats! One goal a season. I’m not a proper man to give advice to strikers.

“We create the chances; he had the chances and next time he’s going to score. I don’t blame him. It’s football, it’s human beings.”

Haaland looked frustrated at the end of the game and pushed away a TV camera, but it has been a difficult week for the Norway international after the death of his grandmother.

The result left City four points off the top of the table in third place, after title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal won earlier in the day.

City dominated the second half, but Guardiola felt they paid the price for a poor first-half display.

Guardiola said: “As a team and a group, the first half was not like we are.

“The demands are so high because no-one is going to give it to us, we have to do everything. We are Man City, so we have to do it for ourselves all the time.

“We had to improve the first half and the second half was unbelievable, how we played and how we made transitions.

“In general, it was really good after we conceded from Raheem but when we play teams with composure and prestige of Chelsea you have to perform at your best for 95 minutes.”

Chelsea’s season has been one of inconsistency, but manager Mauricio Pochettino felt they showed their true character against strong opposition.

Pochettino said: “We tried to prepare, all the coaching staff, to make the plan for the game but football is always a game that belongs to the players and today the execution and the performance was from them. They showed character.

“It was a really important game for us to keep the momentum to realise we are in a good way and improving.

“Still we are not at the level of Man City but that is our aim.

“We need to live this type of game to improve and to create the spirit we need. We show in every single game we want to be competitive.”

Mauricio Pochettino promised his Chelsea side would attack Manchester City when the two clubs meet at the Etihad Stadium for Saturday’s Premier League clash.

The defending champions drew a memorable game 4-4 at Stamford Bridge in November with former City player Cole Palmer scoring a penalty in stoppage time for the hosts to snatch a point.

Chelsea have endured mixed fortunes since, losing half of their 12 league fixtures, though following Monday’s 3-1 win away at Crystal Palace, they could climb to a season-high seventh place with victory against Pep Guardiola’s side.

With 14 games to go, the team have already score three more league goals than they managed in the entirety of the last campaign, when only four sides netted fewer.

Pochettino said there was no chance they would sit and wait for City – who have lost just once at home in the English top flight in almost two years – to come on to them.

“The lesson (from the first game) is that we’re going to face one of the best teams in the world, but at the same time you need to be brave enough to try to force them to defend, to run back and to face their goal,” he said.

“If we go there and wait to see what’s going on, it’s a team that can dominate you and will make you suffer.

“The most important thing we realised is that we need to attack, be able to run and to make the effort all together.

“The most important thing is to go there and be brave, to challenge them.”

Saturday’s game will be the first time Palmer has returned to the Etihad since his £40million summer move to west London.

Before making the switch, the 21-year-old scored for City in this season’s Community Shield, which was lost on penalties to Arsenal and in the UEFA Super Cup win over Sevilla.

He is currently top scorer for his new club with 12 in all competitions and has been arguably the standout success of co-owner Todd Boehly’s mammoth £1billion transfer spend.

Palmer had previously hinted that he moved as he did not believe he would get sufficient game time at City.

“He’s not the type of player that needs to prove anything,” said Pochettino.

“I think he really is very grateful for his period at Manchester City, (but) he left the club because he wanted to find another challenge and to have the possibility to play more.

“Man City have an amazing squad. (Clubs) make decisions that we think are the best for the team. It doesn’t mean someone is not a good player.

“Sometimes the circumstance doesn’t match. Players want to leave and you can’t stop them because you can’t provide the game time.

“It’s unfair to say they’re going to regret it. Man City are one of the best teams in the world and it’s not easy to find the space to play for a young guy.

“Someone here on the staff said to me ‘he’s from Manchester, but he looks like a Brazilian or an Argentinian’.

“He has the capacity to adapt so quick, because our strengths as South Americans, its that we come to Europe and we adapt very quick.”

Pochettino confirmed defender Thiago Silva would miss the game with a minor injury, though Levi Colwill and Malo Gusto were available.

Goalkeeper Robert Sanchez was fit for contention – having not played since December – but the manager would not say whether he would be selected ahead of Djordje Petrovic.

“You will see,” he said. “You never know in football what can happen.”

Roy Hodgson struggled to find positives after Chelsea scored twice in stoppage-time to inflict a 3-1 home loss on his Crystal Palace team.

Conor Gallagher, who spent the 2021-22 season on loan with the Eagles, struck twice to complete the comeback, becoming the first Chelsea player to score a 90th-minute winner in the Premier League since he did precisely the same at Selhurst Park in October 2022.

Beleaguered boss Hodgson, whose side are once again mired in an injury crisis and remain just five points clear of the relegation zone, initially found it difficult to discuss the brighter elements of Monday’s contest.

Hodgson said: “I’m not really in the mood if I’m being brutally honest of (highlighting) positives and trying to find things to say that would cheer me up, because I don’t know what could be said that would cheer me up.

“What can I say that will cheer the players up? I could possibly say, well, with the players we’ve got coming back and these guys doing so well, it bodes well for the future with the 14 games we have left.

“But of course we still don’t know when (Michael) Olise, (Eberechi) Eze will be back, so we might be battling through like we’ve done tonight for a few more games before we can look at a team which will threaten the opposition a bit more than we did today.”

As has been par for the Palace course in recent weeks, before kick-off fans raised banners protesting about the direction of their club, with one reading “supporters ignored and taken for granted”.

A lacklustre start from Mauricio Pochettino’s men allowed the hosts to take the lead after 30 minutes through Jefferson Lerma’s screamer, but it was cancelled out less than two minutes after the break by Gallagher, his first of the campaign.

Hodgson did not feel a lengthy delay to sort out a technical issue with the referee’s equipment had an impact on the equaliser, pointing out it had equally affected both sides.

Just as it seemed Hodgson’s side – who rank below only Sheffield United in goals conceded in the last 15 minutes of the second half of Premier League matches – seemed like they would walk away with a point, Gallagher swept Chelsea into the top half of the table.

Hodgson felt his side might have had a chance to level things until, three minutes later, Enzo Fernandez ended any doubt about the outcome.

Pochettino, meanwhile, was pleased to secure all three points ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Manchester City and the Carabao Cup final later this month, but felt there was plenty of room to improve.

He said:  “I think (Gallagher) is a player that shows great commitment to the team, always tries to compensate in every situation, in offensive and defensive situations.

“It is priceless to have a player like him. I’m so happy for him and so happy for the team, it’s a victory, we needed the three points.

“I think if you ask me if I am really happy about the performance, I’m 50/50, because we cannot approach the game and start the game the way that we started.

“That is the consistency we need to build. We need to be more consistent, we need to start the game in a different way.

“But I’m very pleased in the end because we have the three points, and now we have to prepare for Manchester City, that is going to be a good test for us, before the final. I think we are going to prepare in a very good way.”

Mauricio Pochettino believes Chelsea’s 3-1 win against Aston Villa can be a springboard for his side to revive their ailing campaign.

The team gave arguably their best performance under the Argentinian in dispatching the Premier League high-flyers in Wednesday’s FA Cup fourth-round replay at Villa Park.

And it could not have come at a more opportune moment, arriving after the Blues were booed off by fans at the end of their previous outing, a 4-2 home loss to Wolves that left them 11th.

Chelsea have struggled to be consistent this season as a young squad have found expectations surrounding the club difficult to live up to, particularly in light of the £1billion transfer spend conducted by the ownership.

Yet they comprehensively defeated a Villa side currently in the top four and that recently enjoyed an unbeaten home run of almost year.

“Before (Villa) we had some good performances, but we are not consistent enough,” said Pochettino. “Maybe it could be the starting point for us, starting to be consistent and to show more often this type of performance.

“Always we believe (we can find) momentum and be consistent. Many things from the players and from the team (show we can be consistent).

“I hope it’s going to be a very good thing for us. I think the players deserve, they’re working hard from the start of the season. This type of game showed our capacity and our talent. We have a very good squad.

“We need to put it all together, behave the way that we behave, approach the game in the way that we approach. There are many good things we need to keep for the future.”

Chelsea beat Villa with three outstanding goals, two in the first half from Conor Gallagher, who drilled left-footed into the top corner after 11 minutes, and Nicolas Jackson, whose strike was his first since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations.

Enzo Fernandez capped a brilliant win with a free-kick into the top corner beyond his Argentina team-mate Emiliano Martinez shortly after the break.

“It was only a matter of time,” said Pochettino. “I think Conor and Enzo, they are so good. They work a lot, always committed to the team and to the club.

“Great for Conor, great for Enzo also. They deserve to feel this way, to feel happy, to enjoy playing football. These two guys, they’ve worked so hard to try to perform. I’m so pleased with the performance from them.”

Chelsea will be without defender Benoit Badiashile for Monday’s meeting with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, after he went off with a groin injury at Villa Park.

Levi Colwill’s fitness will be assessed ahead of the game, although Pochettino confirmed summer signing Romeo Lavia is not yet close to returning.

The manager said it was “impossible” the Belgium international would be available before the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool on February 25.

Mauricio Pochettino came out fighting after Chelsea outclassed Aston Villa to breeze into the FA Cup fifth round.

Enzo Fernandez’s stunning free kick sealed a 3-1 victory and set up last-16 tie against Leeds at Stamford Bridge.

First-half goals from Conor Gallagher and Nicolas Jackson put Chelsea in control of the fourth round replay and they cruised to victory, despite Moussa Diaby’s injury-time consolation.

Chelsea had come to Villa Park in disarray on the back of 4-1 and 4-2 defeats to Liverpool and Wolves – leaving them 11th in the Premier League.

But Pochettino insists they cannot be compared to the dominant side from the Roman Abramovich era which won five Premier League titles – despite spending over £1billion under owner Todd Boehly.

He said: “We need to stop this thing that we are Chelsea from 20 years ago. We are not this type of Chelsea anymore. Now we need to move on and we need to create this project.

“We need to move on, I don’t care if people are happy or not happy with my speech. I care for the club, I care for my players, I want to help the players.

“We are going to fight, I don’t care what the people say. I’m not more sad or happy today after a win because we have experience, this type of project needs time and trust.

“We cannot build a team to challenge because you need to fix too many things, you need to observe, analyse and compete.

“We are building a project which may be one year, two years, three years.

“Today you can see we were ready to fight. We fight for the fans, the badge, the coaching staff. Now the challenge is to be consistent.”

Just as the Chelsea fans sung for former owner Abramovich the visitors took the lead after 11 minutes.

Jackson and Noni Madueke combined to tee up Gallagher to find the top corner for his first goal of the season.

Ten minutes later it was 2-0 as Chelsea tore Villa apart down the right and Malo Gusto’s perfect cross was nodded in by Jackson.

There was barely a response from the hosts – who lost their 11-month unbeaten home league run to Newcastle last week – and Emi Martinez saved Cole Palmer’s effort as Chelsea looked for a third.

They found it nine minutes after the break when Fernandez, having been lucky to earn a foul off Youri Tielemans, curled a brilliant 25-yard free-kick into the top corner.

Villa were beaten but managed a consolation in stoppage time when Diaby’s strike went in off both posts and they now welcome a resurgent Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday.

Boss Unai Emery said: “We were excited and motivated and we started well, we didn’t score but we were feeling good.

“When they were getting in our box we were not being strong and they were affecting us. They got into our box with some crosses and were clinical.

“I was more or less feeling the difference was the clinical way for them.

“We scored a little bit late and had no time to score the second goal. We have to accept and analyse the match. To beat them is not easy when you’re not being clinical.”

Mauricio Pochettino has called for perspective on the struggles of his Chelsea team, insisting “I cannot lose my hair” over recent poor results.

Sunday’s 4-2 loss at home to Wolves was the 10th in the league since the 51-year-old arrived in the summer and triggered the first audible signs of discontent from fans towards the manager.

Afterwards Pochettino appeared to suggest he believed the players were not good enough to arrest the club’s slide, though he has since clarified he was referring only to the performance in the defeat to Gary O’Neil’s side.

Chelsea were outrun and out-thought by Wolves who, despite seeing their hosts enjoy greater ball possession, were conformably the more threatening team and they cut through the Blues with relative ease en route to a first win at Stamford Bridge since 1979.

It drew an angry response from supporters near the dugout who booed the players off at half-time and again at the final whistle as the Blues dropped into the bottom half of the Premier League table.

It followed a meek 4-1 collapse away to Liverpool in their previous fixture.

However, Pochettino insisted it was important for a coach in his position to retain a sense of enjoyment in the job even in trying times.

“Football is my passion, not my job,” he said. “Sometimes we say ‘job’ but it’s the wrong word. Football is entertainment.

“If I don’t think like this, I need to go in another position, being a sporting director or CEO or president.

“Being coach, I need to keep a sense of why I am here. We cannot suffer because of business and other things. We need to be focused to play football.

“To be focused in football, you need to feel free in your mind. You cannot be affected because the stock in New York or Tokyo, or the weather or because the farm doesn’t grow.

“That’s why I keep my hair like this, because I don’t suffer from things that I am not in charge of. I only suffer for football, to try to improve the players, to provide them a good platform to win games.

“If there is no rain on my farm, you kill the business of my farm. That is a stress. You can lose your hair. But I cannot lose my hair because we’re not winning because the opponent was better than us.”

With 15 league games to go, Chelsea are just one place higher in the table than they finished last season in what was wildly acknowledged to be an appalling campaign.

They travel to Aston Villa on Wednesday for an FA Cup fourth-round replay.

“I didn’t finish 12th last year, Chelsea did,” said Pochettino. “It is a different squad to last year, many changes. If you want to compare to damage us, to compare things I think is impossible.

“You can compare to try to damage, if you want to make a problem. But to analyse and put all the circumstances, I don’t think that before was better or was worse. It’s difficult to compare because we are in another project.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says it is a credit to their academy players that his side have emerged unscathed from a difficult January to lead the Premier League by five points.

The 4-1 victory over Chelsea was the Reds’ sixth win in seven matches in the month, with the other a draw in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final at Fulham having gone into the game with a lead from the home tie.

During that period the side have been without three senior full-backs, as well as the likes of midfielders Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister at varying times and, of course, Mohamed Salah.

Deputy right-back Conor Bradley has impressed hugely and put in his second successive man-of-the-match display with his first Liverpool goal and two assists in the victory.

But with Trent Alexander-Arnold close to full match fitness after two substitute appearances, it has given Klopp a decision to make ahead of Sunday’s trip to Arsenal.

“There is no situation. It is just how it is,” said Klopp.

“We had seven games in January with 11 days off in between. We couldn’t have put the string of results together without the kids, (Jarell) Quansah, Conor and we had midfielders out so we played with James McConnell at six.

“These boys used this situation. I am happy they all could perform the way they did. The academy is doing an incredible job.”

Striker Darwin Nunez had one of those games where he did everything but score, becoming the first player since Opta records began in 2003 to hit the woodwork four times, once from the penalty spot.

It was at the extreme end of what has become a frequent trademark from the Uruguay international, who set up the fourth goal for Luis Diaz, but Klopp is not concerned.

“Insane first half, unbelievable. Outstanding. Why do we speak about Darwin? Obviously because he has so many situations where he missed,” he added.

“The first time since we count a player hits the woodwork four times in a game. Think you are in his boots and how that feels. Missing a penalty you could see at half-time he was really upset with himself.

“It’s just crazy that he creates that many. Imagine for a second he would take them all. The numbers would be absolutely insane, to an extent where we wouldn’t understand it any more so it’s normal.

“For us, it’s unimportant. We scored four goals, who cares if we could have scored a fifth or sixth?”

It would not have flattered Liverpool to have added two or three more such was their dominance over opponents who they will meet again in the Carabao Cup final in a month’s time.

Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino admitted his side were second best and even penalty shouts in the first and second halves would not have done much to alter the direction of travel.

“I think it is not to find excuses. The performance was not good enough from us. They deserved to win, they were better than us,” he said.

“We didn’t perform in the way we wanted to. In this type of game you need to say ‘well done Liverpool’.

“In the final (next month) we need to compete in a different way. If we compete the same way as today for sure it is going to be the same result.

“For us it is about learning. We are competing against a team that is on the top and is consistent to always be challenging for the big trophies.”

Youngster Conor Bradley registered his first Liverpool goal and two assists as the Premier League leaders thumped Chelsea 4-1 at Anfield to go five points clear at the top.

The 20-year-old right-back fired into the bottom corner in the 39th minute to double the Reds’ lead having earlier provided the pass that led to Diogo Jota’s opener midway through the first half.

After Darwin Nunez sent a penalty against the post in first-half stoppage-time – one of four times he hit the woodwork – the advantage was extended in the 65th minute when Dominik Szoboszlai headed in from Bradley’s cross.

Christopher Nkunku replied before Luis Diaz wrapped things up for Jurgen Klopp’s men as they made it 15 league matches unbeaten, and four successive wins, in their first top-flight outing since the German’s announcement that he is to step down as boss at the end of the season.

A miserable evening for Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea ended a three-match winning run as they stayed 10th.

Manchester City, who have played a game fewer than Liverpool, returned to second place with their fourth league victory on the bounce, beating struggling Burnley 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium.

Julian Alvarez netted twice on his 24th birthday and Rodri also got on the scoresheet before top-scorer Erling Haaland make his comeback from injury as a 71st-minute substitute.

Ameen Al-Dakhil netted a stoppage-time consolation for second-bottom Burnley, managed by ex-City captain Vincent Kompany, as Pep Guardiola’s treble-winners went above Arsenal on goal difference.

Tottenham moved into the top four after a flurry of goals early in the second half helped them come from behind to beat Brentford 3-2 at home.

Neal Maupay’s effort for the Bees on the quarter-hour mark was cancelled out three minutes into the second half by Destiny Udogie.

Brennan Johnson then put Spurs ahead a minute later, with Richarlison adding a further goal for the hosts seven minutes on from that.

Ivan Toney subsequently reduced the deficit in the 67th minute but Ange Postecoglou’s team emerged with the three points to leapfrog Aston Villa in the table.

Premier League clubs have largely kept their powder dry in this transfer window but could there be a flurry of activity on deadline day?

Here the PA news agency takes a look at what could go through before the top-flight window in England closes at 11pm on February 1.

Could Rashford make a shock move?

England forward Marcus Rashford is under the microscope again following his alleged hijinks in Belfast last week, which led to internal disciplinary measures being taken by Manchester United.

While United say they have drawn a line under the matter, Rashford is not as settled under Erik ten Hag as he might once have been.

Any departure from Old Trafford in the next day or so would still be regarded as a major surprise but Paris St Germain are reportedly keeping tabs on United’s homegrown 26-year-old.

Chelsea offloading before buying?

Conor Gallagher has been an integral part of Mauricio Pochettino’s side this season but with just 18 months left on his contract and no sign of an extension, the England midfielder has been linked with a switch to Tottenham.

Fulham and Wolves are said to be tracking another of Chelsea’s academy products in Armando Broja.

But lightening the books could allow the Blues to follow up reported interest in Aston Villa’s Jhon Duran and Newcastle forward Callum Wilson as well as Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies.

Newcastle keeping busy

Newcastle were expected to be one of the biggest movers but they are having to juggle the restrictions imposed by profit and sustainability and financial fair play rules with a desire to strengthen.

Indeed, boss Eddie Howe said this week it was “impossible” to add to their squad without selling first.

Kieran Trippier, Miguel Almiron and Bruno Guimaraes have all been linked with moves abroad but Newcastle have managed to resist any overtures thus far and will hope there are no major departures on Thursday.

Blades want cutting edge defender

Rock-bottom Sheffield United have brought in Chile striker Ben Brereton Diaz and former Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Ivo Grbic this month but manager Chris Wilder wants someone experienced to bolster his backline.

The Blades have shipped 54 goals in 22 matches – by far the worst record in the league – and Wilder says the club is working “frantically” to get something over the line before the window shuts.

Hammers go for Jota

With Said Benrahma reportedly close to sealing a move to Ligue 1 club Lyon, West Ham could target former Celtic winger Jota to shore up the wing.

The Portuguese only swapped the Hoops for the Saudi Pro League last summer but has been heavily linked with a return to the UK.

However, David Moyes’ side could meet resistance from Al-Ittihad given Jota has been in Saudi Arabia for just six months.

Mauricio Pochettino praised Emiliano Martinez after the Aston Villa goalkeeper produced a string of saves to deny his Chelsea side in their goalless FA Cup fourth-round meeting at Stamford Bridge.

Villa are five places and 12 points ahead of Chelsea in the Premier League table but there was little to separate them here, although the hosts will reflect on chances missed in the first half by Noni Madueke and Cole Palmer as a shot at settling the tie slipped away.

Martinez was the decisive actor on both occasions, spreading himself well and blocking in one-on-one situations.

John McGinn had Villa’s best opportunities, first when his clipped effort sailed inches over the bar on the stroke of half-time, then again when he stole in at the near post to meet Nicolo Zaniolo’s cross late on but guided it wide under pressure from Thiago Silva.

It is now three consecutive home games against Villa in which Chelsea have failed to score, as they struggled to capitalise on the momentum of Tuesday’s 6-1 Carabao Cup win over Middlesbrough that set up a final showdown against Liverpool at Wembley next month.

“This type of games are very even,” said Pochettino. “When you face a team like Aston Villa, always it’s difficult. We didn’t score but we created chances. I trust and believe in my players playing this way, we are going to score.

“We came from Tuesday, we scored six so today should be good. But their keeper is an amazing keeper, he’s really good. Sometimes you need some luck to score.”

Chelsea lost defender Levi Colwill to injury during the warm-up, with 20-year-old academy graduate Alfie Gilchrist drafted into the starting XI.

Pochettino confirmed Colwill’s injury is not serious and emphasised his belief in Gilchrist as a capable stand-in.

“It’s not so bad, it’s some small issue that maybe he didn’t feel comfortable,” he said. “We knew before we might not start with him. We hope he will train tomorrow.

“The most difficult thing (for young players) is to manage the stress. (Gilchrist) thought he wasn’t going to play. Sometimes with the young guys, you give the starting XI and they think too much, maybe they can’t sleep. The stress can affect them. But he got half an hour (to prepare), no time to think too much.

“The young players need time to be calm and relaxed, not to spend too much energy thinking on the game. But he was really good. He’s going to grow and be more mature in future.

“He’s showing, and we are giving the opportunity for him to build his career. It’s important for all of the academy players have ability to show they can cope with the pressure of playing for Chelsea. We’ll see if he can reach the level we expect.”

Villa boss Unai Emery reflected on a game in which side impressed with their competitive approach despite the stalemate.

“I have to accept this draw and that we will now play at home and be motivated with our supporters,” he said.

“We are going to be at Villa Park trying to enjoy this, because we showed tonight that we are competitive and we can be contenders as well for this competition.”

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