Paul Merson has issued a defence of Chelsea star Cole Palmer and has fired a huge warning to head coach Mauricio Pochettino.
The Blues host Middlesbrough in the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final on Tuesday having lost 1-0 in their first meeting at the Riverside Stadium.
Should Chelsea overturn their first-leg deficit, they would be one game away from landing a major trophy in Pochettino’s first season in charge of the club.
But Merson has warned the Argentine that Chelsea’s season could ‘fall apart’ in the space of four days.
‘This is a massive week in Chelsea’s season, which could fall apart in four days,’ Merson told Sky Sports.
‘If they win their Carabao Cup semi-final against Middlesbrough then beat Aston Villa, they’re knocking out a big team from the FA Cup as well. Then when you’re a few points off sixth place, all of a sudden it doesn’t look so bad.
‘If Chelsea don’t go through to the final on Tuesday night, I can’t see them beating Aston Villa on Friday night, so it’s a big few days for them.
‘If they did lose to Middlesbrough, where would it leave Mauricio Pochettino? Middlesbrough will try to get out and frustrate Chelsea.
‘They have got to take it in segments, maybe 10 minutes or 20 minutes at a time. Middlesbrough just need to get through the first 20 minutes but if they don’t, I’ll be shocked. Chelsea don’t blow teams away so Middlesbrough will be in this game for a long time.
‘Cole Palmer just had one of those days in the first game. He’s a top player and I don’t look at that performance and go, ‘He can’t do it at the top level’ – he got in the positions but he’s not a natural finisher.
‘No disrespect to him but when he went through one-on-one and dragged it past the post, that’s normal. It just showed it didn’t fall at his feet the other day.’