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Opinion: European qualification is a very realistic target for Chelsea via Premier League following Fulham win



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It’s been a mixed season for Chelsea this term under Mauricio Pochettino, however many factors have seen them end up in the position they are currently in.

Chelsea are currently in the top half after their 1-0 win over Fulham in the Premier League on Saturday, which saw them record a fourth league home win in a row as they headed into the winter break.

Pochettino’s side were under pressure to bounce back from their narrow first leg Carabao Cup semi final defeat to Middlesbrough in midweek, which Cole Palmer ensured they did with his penalty on the stroke of half time that proved to be the different in the west London derby.

Saturday’s win over Fulham have found Chelsea not far off the European places in the Premier League. They’re in the mix and despite several teams around them having a game in hand, they are a three to six points off European qualification, with a Champions League finish a little further adrift.

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A difficult month or so awaits Chelsea. Liverpool and Manchester City await in their next four league matches along with Crystal Palace and Wolves. Prior to that, it’s two cup ties; the second leg against Boro at Stamford Bridge which they should be overturning the one nil deficit, as well as a home tie three days later against Aston Villa in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Chelsea are beginning to welcome back more injuries. Ben Chilwell and Carney Chukwuemeka made their long awaited injury comebacks with brief cameos against Fulham, while Benoit Badiashile and Trevoh Chalobah are almost fit.

Christopher Nkunku remains sidelined but his return will be hoped over the next few weeks from a hip injury, giving Pochettino more availability choices should there be no further fitness issues in the squad.

Consistency has been a big problem for Chelsea. Both on and off the pitch with results, performances and availability. But the chance is there now for Pochettino’s squad. They have a chance for European qualification via the Carabao Cup and FA Cup, however the pathway is opening in the league and they have a very realistic chance should they manage to string a couple more wins together.

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Pochettino was asked about Chelsea’s progress after three league wins in a row. He continues to point that their performances in recent times have been up there and that the Middlesbrough defeat skewed perception.

“If you see the last period of different competition, we were one of the best teams performing and talking about result,” Pochettino told reporters after beating Fulham. “Only the result we didn’t get against Middlesbrough effected our run and the perception of people. If you go back the last month, we were one of the better sides.

“Three games in a row in the Premier League, four at Stamford Bridge, important thing for the team in the way we are building this process to feel the confidence, the trust and even accepting the criticism. Accept when you are Chelsea and you are defeated by a Championship team. Previous years in cups, big sides were also defeated but that is part of the process, part of our reality.

“Most important is we are strong and we know very well the way we need to keep working and the players today were very professional. Very happy with the first 30 minutes of the second half and I think that is the way we need to play with more freedom and we performed and linked very well.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

‘Then it was good to see this young team defend the last 15 minutes in the way we did, fighting and doing everything to try and get the result.’

Chelsea are now off for a couple days prior to returning to prepare for Middlesbrough. Pochettino’s side need to ensure they return to Cobham ready to go to meet expectation and finish the season strongly in order to return to European action next term.