Blues can beat Boro and leave Poch in touching distance of cup glory | Football

Cole Palmer will be going flat out to score for Chelsea against Middlesbrough (Picture: Getty Images)

It’s better to tell a hard truth than a soft lie so here goes about Mauricio Pochettino. 

There’s no doubt he’s an A+ manager, right up therewhen it comes to coaching youngsters, drawing the full potential out of their talents and developing extraordinarily entertaining teams capable of mixing it with the very best in the business. 

Any club looking for someone to take over at the helm would be insane not to pencil his name on their shortlist as he possesses a clear plan for the future and, given time and the right tools, he will complete the job. Well, nearly. 

That’s the bit where the hard truth and the soft lie comes into play. Poch transformed Tottenham into one of the very best teams in Europe, regularly qualifying for the Champions League and even reaching the 2019 final in Madrid.

He took them to the 2015 League Cup showcase and twice to the brink of Premier League immortality but ultimately they always fell short.

Now Poch is in charge at Chelsea, orchestrating a similar rebuilding job, and after a few hiccups it looks as though the Blues are heading in the right direction.

They have won three straight Premier League games and four of their last five outings in all competitions but the solitary defeat was a 1-0 reversal at Middlesbrough in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final with the mediocre Championship side.

Mauricio Pochettino needs to win a trophy to avoid a reputation as a nearly man

Mauricio Pochettino needs to win a trophy to avoid a reputation as a nearly man (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)

The Argentinian can correct that blip in the return leg at Stamford Bridge to move within 90 minutes of winning his first major silverware with an English club as Chelsea missed chance after chance in the first leg, failing to convert any of the 18 shots they chiselled out.

With a little more patience they should be too strong for Boro, even if Pochettino shuffles his pack ahead of Friday’s quick turnaround with Aston Villa popping up at the Bridge for an FA Cup fourth-round thriller.

The Blues are 13/2 to win 2-0 and advance on aggregate and Cole Palmer, who missed several sitters in the first leg, is 11/2 with Paddy Power to score the opening goal and 8/5 with the same firm and Betfair to score at any time.

The harsh truth is if Chelsea don’t qualify for the final then Poch is going to find himself under the closest scrutiny and that’s not a word of a lie. 

• Oxford, Derby, MK Dons and Crewe form tonight’s Football League yankee.

• Wimbledon and US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz has only dropped one set on his way to the Australian Open quarter-finals and can reach the last four in Melbourne for the first time by beating Alexander Zverev. He may drop another set but a victory by three sets to one will do the trick at 11/4 with Ladbrokes and Coral. 


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