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Mauricio Pochettino targeting a win, and 20 minutes of Christopher Nkunku against Newcastle United in League Cup quarterfinals

Pressure management

Chelsea Training Session And Press Conference Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Next up for Chelsea is a League Cup quarterfinal showdown against Newcastle United, which should finally see the official competitive debut of Christopher Nkunku.

We’ve waited nearly five months for this moment, since he hurt his knee in preseason, and that has only ratcheted up the expectations placed on the 26-year-old’s shoulders — especially given our struggles in front of goal and inconsistent results and performances in general so far this season.

But Mauricio Pochettino has warned against falling into the trap of expecting Nkunku alone to fix everything wrong with this team, as he’s taken great pains to manage the forward’s workload, both physical and mental.

“Christoph was involved in the last game on Saturday [but] the reality was, he wasn’t a player to be involved after 2-0. I didn’t want to take a risk with him. How I see today? I tell you maybe he can play 20 minutes.

“Before Sheffield United in my mind, I was 1% or 2% of doubt, that is why I did not want to take a risk. That is how I explained it to him. I need to be 100%. If I have 1% doubt... It was good for him to feel the warm up and be with the team. That was amazing. Why take a risk when it was 2-0 when I was thinking I don’t know if it was the right moment?

“[And] it’s about the combination [and] about how he feels. His priority is to feel 100% and see in which position or different dynamics, or animations for him to fit and be decisive. [...] My worry is to put too much pressure on him and to say now he has arrived, the guy is going to make us win every single game and change everything. I don’t believe it will be like this because he now needs time to recover his feeling. Hope that starts tomorrow, maybe play and score three goals and then be consistent.

“The most important thing is not to create too many pressures on him. He needs to find himself, find the competition and then adapt in a team that was competing without him in the last four or five months. We need to be careful. He has not made his debut in the Premier League and you know how tough is the Premier League for players who arrive from outside of England.”

That’s all well and good of course, and in an ideal world, that would be easy to manage. But managing pressures on an individual or collective level in the Premier League (and association competitions) is easier said than done.

Chelsea Training Session And Press Conference Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

And the pressure’s certainly on tomorrow — for both teams, to be sure! — with a potential trophy nearly in sight. No one really cares about the League Cup until the later rounds, but once you’re there, you’re certainly targeting a victory.

“For Newcastle it is also an important competition but for us, from the beginning of the season it has been one of our objectives. It is going to be an important game tomorrow, we want to go through but we know we are going to face a very good team, a Champions League team and it will be tough.

“Of course, I want to win a trophy here in England. I want to lift a trophy now in this competition because it is important. My wish and my desire is to win and this is one of the competitions we are involved and it is possible. We need to respect our opponents, Newcastle are going to be tough, we need to deserve to go through to the semi-final.”

“[We] want to deliver the job for our club, for our fans. Delivering a trophy, the most important thing is to win. It’s difficult to measure, it’s really important, it is a priority. To have the possibility to win a title is really important. It’s in our mind, our objective, we need to be ready to fight tomorrow to be closer to winning a title. We need to fight, we need to be aggressive, we need to follow our last game in the way we behave and the way we approach the game and improve in the way we play. We need to keep the same mentality and the same capacity to fight for every single ball.”

-Mauricio Pochettino; source: Football.London

I mean, I’ll take an undeserving victory just the same.

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