Exclusive: Mauricio Pochettino defends ‘fantastic’ start at Chelsea, hits out at ‘unfair’ reaction to Carabao Cup run

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Mauricio Pochettino has labelled his seven months in charge of Chelsea “fantastic” and hit out at a “really unfair” subdued reaction to his side reaching the Carabao Cup final, in an exclusive interview with TNT Sports.

The Blues meet Liverpool for the trophy on February 25, with the sides set for a dress rehearsal at Anfield in the Premier League on Wednesday night, live on TNT Sports and discovery+.

Chelsea are ninth in the table, 17 points adrift of their next opponents, after another turbulent campaign that has seen them beset with injuries.

Asked to assess his start to life at Chelsea, Pochettino said: “In my view? Fantastic. In the people’s view? Without context of the circumstances, and not being realistic, maybe OK, maybe good.

“But in our opinion, I think with the circumstances we are doing well.”

Since Todd Boehly’s takeover in May 2022, Chelsea have spent £1 billion on transfer and loan fees – and still had little to celebrate on the pitch.

Thomas Tuchel, Graham Potter and Frank Lampard have all failed to secure long-term tenure under Boehly, with the American turning to former Tottenham boss Pochettino last summer in a bid to restore Chelsea to their former glory.

Pochettino has had the task of gluing a host of new faces together at Stamford Bridge, aware that time has not been a commodity granted to Chelsea managers since Roman Abramovich first blew open the Premier League in 2003.

“It’s not only the players, I think all the areas are new. We need to coordinate everything,” Pochettino said on the recent upheaval.

“When you arrive to a club with a clear organisation, you can just focus on the players, but here it was about not only the players, but the whole organisation.

“That is why it makes the situation harder and why I said we’re doing really well.”

On those that doubt him, Pochettino continued: “The people cannot be here for 12 hours [each day], like us. And we cannot explain all that happens here.

“That is the difference. After seven months, all the circumstances, the injured players… if we see the big things: we are in the final against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup.

“Only two teams from 20 are going to play for a title. One is Liverpool, another is Chelsea. And I think at the moment, there is not too much credit.

“We beat teams like Brighton [third round] and Newcastle [quarter-finals] and we arrived in the final because we really deserved it. But no one said anything.

“And then Liverpool arrived in the final and it’s a massive celebration. But for Chelsea, it’s like ‘OK, it’s not a big thing’. That is really unfair.”

He added: “I don’t understand the doubt, with all the circumstances. But to be honest, with people in the street it’s the opposite. I never feel the doubt.

“All the people are very warm with us and really believe in the project, really believe in the future. It’s only a matter of time.”

‘Fantastic’ Klopp up there with Sir Alex and Wenger – Pochettino

Tottenham Hotspur’s Argentinian head coach Mauricio Pochettino (R) congratulates Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp

Image credit: Getty Images

Klopp is something of a nemesis to Pochettino, who has mustered just one win from 12 meetings with the outgoing German. Indeed, it was Klopp who trampled on Pochettino’s biggest moment when Liverpool beat Spurs in the 2019 Champions League final in Madrid.

“When he arrived, his first game was in the old White Hart Lane. Good memories,” recalled Pochettino.

“I think during the years we’ve shared in the Premier League we’ve played some fantastic games – some good and not so good, like the final of the Champions League. But he was always a gentleman, always treated us with massive respect. I am so happy for all that he achieved at Liverpool.”

Liverpool hold a two-point lead over Arsenal in the Premier League, with a game in hand, as they continue to fight for trophies on four fronts. Manchester City are five points back, having played one game fewer.

“Always it is difficult [against Klopp’s Liverpool]. I don’t think too many clubs or coaches have a good record against Liverpool in the last few years,” said Pochettino.

“I’m not the only one who doesn’t have a good record against Klopp. But it’s a great opportunity, it will be difficult, but we really believe we can win.”

Asked where he ranked Klopp among the Premier League’s greatest managers, Pochettino said: “One of the greatest here. It’s difficult to identify in which position, but of course the top level for sure. With [Arsene] Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson.”

He added: “He’s fantastic, a great manager, great person. We already start to miss him!”

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