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Five key questions for Mauricio Pochettino ahead of Newcastle vs Chelsea in Premier League



(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

As Chelsea prepare for a formidable showdown against Newcastle United, Mauricio Pochettino faces a myriad of critical decisions that could significantly influence the outcome of this crucial Premier League fixture.

Currently positioned in 10th place, Chelsea have exhibited signs of resurgence under Pochettino’s guidance, marked by a notable victory against Tottenham and a thrilling 4-4 draw with Manchester City.

However, the trip to St James’ Park presents a stern test against the seventh-placed Magpies, who have suffered two defeats in as many of their last games.

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Here, Absolute Chelsea delves into five pivotal questions for Pochettino as he navigates the complexities of squad selection and tactical approach.

Christopher Nkunku’s return: Why isn’t he ready yet?

Despite optimism following Nkunku‘s return to the grass at Cobham with his teammates, the Frenchman is still not quite ready to return to action. He has been sidelined since the summer after picking up a knee injury during pre-season.

“Lavia and Nkunku still out,” confirmed Pochettino pre-match. “No, it’s difficult to assess them. They are in a good condition. Nkunku a little ahead of Lavia. Doing things with the group last week, still not full recovery.”

Pochettino added: “Last week, in few training sessions, still he’s not full recovery to be part of the tactical sessions. He is a player, a fantastic player that was top scorer in Bundesliga and he can play in different positions.

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“Really bad luck to lose him for the beginning of the season. Step by step we will find the best way for him to fit in the team. He needs to build his form and be in his best XI to then compete with players.”

Optimising Cole Palmer’s positional impact: Through the middle or on the right?

Cole Palmer has emerged as a pivotal figure in recent triumphs, showcasing his attacking prowess in the middle and from the right side of the attack. Pochettino faces the strategic dilemma of determining Palmer’s most effective position.

Is he more impactful orchestrating plays through the middle, or does his dynamism shine brightest when operating from the right flank? The answer to this question holds the key to unlocking Palmer’s full potential in the upcoming clash.

With Nicolas Jackson netting a hat-trick against Spurs and getting on the scoresheet against Man City, he will be pushing for another starting role which would see Palmer be deployed out wide.

(Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Left-back conundrum: Marc Cucurella or Levi Colwill?

The left-back position presents Pochettino with another intricate decision. While Marc Cucurella has demonstrated defensive excellence, the potential inclusion of Levi Colwill, who is fit to face the Magpies, introduces an element of competition.

Pochettino must assess the individual defensive strengths of both players and consider who is better suited to thwart the attacking threat posed by Newcastle, especially the dynamic Miguel Almiron. Striking the right balance between defensive solidity and attacking flair is paramount.

Managing Enzo Fernandez’s workload: Does he need a rest?

Enzo Fernandez’s contributions have been nothing short of exceptional for Chelsea, but the 22-year-old has accumulated significant playing time, including with Argentina, who sealed a historic win over Brazil during the international break.

Pochettino faces the delicate task of balancing Enzo’s need for rest with the imperative of maintaining peak performance throughout the demanding season.

He is likely to continue his starting role in the side on Saturday, but Pochettino may eye a rest for Enzo as they prepare for the busy festive schedule.

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Nicolas Jackson: A key starting element or tactical adjustment?

Jackson’s recent goal-scoring exploits – six goals this season, four in the last two games – underscore his emergence as a big-game player. Pochettino must decide whether to entrust Jackson with a starting role, capitalising on his current rhythm, or adopt a more defensive mindset by fielding Raheem Sterling in the middle.

The alternative option of Armando Broja, instrumental in earning a penalty against Manchester City, adds further layers to Pochettino’s strategic calculus.

Amidst off-field speculation regarding potential points deductions and ownership changes, Pochettino must keep his squad focused on the immediate challenge at hand. The match against Newcastle is not merely a contest for three points but a pivotal juncture that could shape Chelsea’s trajectory in the league.

The answers to these five questions will serve as a testament to Pochettino’s tactical acumen and his ability to navigate a complex landscape, both on and off the pitch.