LONDON: Even while Chelsea is struggling in the Premier League, its form in cup competitions could yet see it end the season with a trophy or two.
With a place in the League Cup semifinals already, Chelsea advanced to the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday after beating Preston North End 4-0. That could give U.S. owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital cause for optimism in a crisis-ridden run since their takeover in 2022.
At 10th in the league, Chelsea looks likely to miss out on qualifying for the Champions League for a second year in a row. But manager Mauricio Pochettino is finding joy in the domestic cups, extended against second-division Preston after Armando Broja, Thiago Silva, Raheem Sterling and Enzo Fernandez scored in a second-half rout at Stamford Bridge.
“The first half I was a little disappointed. We started so sloppy,” Pochettino said. “I told the players at halftime we needed to increase the energy and match that of Preston. The second half was a completely different game. We dominated, created chances and deserved victory.”
In the League Cup, Chelsea will face second-division Middlesbrough over two legs in the semifinals, and is favored to meet Liverpool or Fulham in the final.
But Pochettino will note how close Middlesbrough was to forcing an FA Cup replay against Aston Villa before eventually losing 1-0 against the second-placed team in the Premier League.
Matty Cash scored an 87th-minute winner at Riverside Stadium. As well as being an unlikely league title contender, Villa has reached the knockout stage of the Europa Conference League. IANS