Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino believes a lack of European football this season will help his side but the Blues boss is confident he can bring the club back to Europe next season.
After a difficult season, Chelsea, who lifted the Champions League trophy in 2021, finished 12th in the Premier League, meaning they will not be involved when European football returns next week.
The Blues – who take on Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday, live on Sky Sports – currently sit 12th in the table after an up and down start to the new season under Pochettino, with injuries hampering the Argentinean manager at the start of his reign at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea, who have four points after the opening four games, have been hit with several injury problems early in the new season, with full-back and captain Reece James, new striker Christopher Nkunku and central defenders Wesley Fofana and Benoit Badiashile among the key players on the sidelines.
And while Pochettino admits no European football this season is a positive for his side as they combat the lengthy injury list they currently have, he insists they will be back in Europe next season with the quality he has in his squad.
“With the circumstances, I think it’s better for us [not to be in Europe] because we have 11 or 12 injured players,” he said. “I think it’s important now that we can recover and be more competitive.
“But for Chelsea it’s important to be involved in European competition, but that is not in my hands now. That is the reality.
“For sure, we are going to be involved in European competition next season. No doubt with the quality we have.”
Chelsea have suffered defeats at West Ham and at home to Nottingham Forest in what has been a stuttering start to the season for Pochettino and his side.
Chelsea team news: Lavia facing spell on sidelines
Mauricio Pochettino also confirmed in his news conference that Romeo Lavia faces a spell out of the team after injuring his ankle in training, but could not say how long the summer signing from Southampton will be out.
However, an injury of this kind typically requires six weeks of recovery time, meaning the £58m Belgium international is unlikely to make his debut for the club before November.
“(We are) really disappointed because he was training really well last week,” said Pochettino. “He’s twisted his ankle and now we wait for Monday to hear from the doctor. We hope it’s not a big issue. It’s real shame. It’s a sad situation because he was nearly fit to be involved again with the team. We don’t know (time). We need to assess him.”
Neither Armando Broja nor Benoit Badiashile will be fit to feature against Bournemouth though both are back in full training and took part in internal matches during the international break.
Reece James, who went off injured during the season opener against Liverpool in August, is not fit to return but is back working with the ball in training. “Reece is recovering well,” said Pochettino. “I can’t say if he’s close or not, because we assess him every single day. He’s started doing things on the pitch with the ball. He’s really well, he’s desperate to come again and help the team. I hope that he’s close and can be available before the next international break.”
Pochettino: We haven’t got the points we deserve
A win over Luton and an opening day draw with Liverpool have been the only bright spots for the Blues in the Premier League, but despite the early defeat, Pochettino believes his side had performed well.
The team face Bournemouth on Sunday looking to win away from home for only the second time since March.
“The team performance was good in the first month,” said Pochettino. “We didn’t get the points that we deserved. The organisation was good, the way that we want to play. Players believe in the way that we want to play.
“If you see the data, we are very good in possession, we are very good in construction and building. Only what we are missing is to score goals. That’s the most important thing in football. We want to be more competitive. We cannot concede this type of goal we conceded against Nottingham. We cannot be so weak, we need to be more solid. We have players with experience, players that can do better.
“At the moment, I think my feeling is bad because we are playing well, we are showing to everyone we can compete, we dominate games against teams like Liverpool. But in the end we need to be more competitive – I say that because I don’t want to use another word. We need to be more naughty, more aggressive.
“They’re not too nice. (They need) to compete better. To increase our level is not about our quality, it’s to compete. To compete more in every single moment of the game that requires some thing to do. Because we’re still building the team, finding this balance, for sure it’s a matter of time.
“I try to describe why we didn’t get the points we deserved. At some moment of the game you need to show more this quality, this mental strength, to have this experience to manage better to deal with some circumstance in the game. Sometimes it’s not about only talent.
“When you see the Forest game after two weeks, the time we’ve spent trying to identify why we lost the game, it’s really tough. But that’s not to do with last season, we can’t blame last season. We need to blame ourselves and find solutions in ourselves. We cannot blame the past, we cannot blame the feeling of last season. Now it’s a new era, everything is new.”
Poch backs Jackson to shine
A player who Chelsea brought to Stamford Bridge in the summer to get goals was striker Nicolas Jackson.
The 22-year-old has just one goal to his name so far this season and missed a glorious late opportunity in his side’s defeat to Nottinghm Forest, but Pochettino, while calling on Jackson to be more clinical, believes it is only a matter of time before the goals start flowing.
He said: “The performance [against Nottingham Forest] was good, only that he didn’t score.
“As a striker, you need to score or assist but we need to think that Jackson came from Spain, he’s young, he needs to build his confidence and trust. He needs to adapt to the Premier League.
“It’s only a matter of time but he’s doing a fantastic job for the team.
“He needs to be more clinical in front of goal but I think that is going to happen. No doubt he is a fantastic player.”
Why Pochettino’s faith in Jackson is justified
Nicolas Jackson’s late miss in Chelsea’s defeat to Nottingham Forest prompted ridicule but his thrilling potential is clear.
Read Nick Wright’s feature here
Jones Knows: Bournemouth vs Chelsea prediction…
The goal expectancy looks too high in a game between two teams who have significant problems in attack.
Chelsea can point to their big chance created tally of 11 this season – no side has created more – as a piece of evidence to show that their football is flowing and all that is missing is the finish. But they have flaky finishers. That’s the issue, and one that surely won’t resolve itself, no matter how strong the overall chance creation metrics are. I’d be confident of goals remaining a problem while the players in that frontline remain the same.
Since the start of October 2022, Chelsea’s Premier League games have seen 78 goals, the fewest of any side excluding the three promoted teams, working out at an average of 2.16 per 90 minutes. Plus, Chelsea have scored more than once just seven times in their last 33 games in all competitions.
That makes the 5/4 with Sky Bet on this game going under the 2.5 goal line very appealing, especially with Bournemouth still struggling to find their identity under Andoni Iraola. Only Sheffield United and Burnley have created fewer big chances than the Cherries this season, with none of those coming in their two home games with West Ham and Tottenham.
At the time of writing, there have been 51 Premier League games played since the last 0-0 draw. I can’t resist the 14/1 with Sky Bet on this breaking that run.
SCORE PREDICTION: 0-0 JONES KNOWS’ BEST BET: Under 3.5 goals (4/7 with Sky Bet – Bet Here!)
Watch Bournemouth vs Chelsea live on Sky Sports Premier League from 1pm on Sunday; kick-off 2pm
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