In the lead-up to Chelsea’s crucial League Cup quarter-final clash against Newcastle on Tuesday, Mauricio Pochettino has urged fans not to place undue expectations on Christopher Nkunku.
The 26-year-old forward, signed from RB Leipzig for a hefty £52 million, is poised for a possible debut after recovering from a knee injury sustained during the pre-season US tour.
Despite being named in Pochettino’s squad for the recent 2-0 victory against Sheffield United, Nkunku didn’t feature, but the Chelsea manager hinted at a potential 20-minute appearance in the upcoming match. Pochettino emphasized the need for caution, stating, “I need to be 100 percent, then things can happen.”
Chelsea, currently 10th in the Premier League, has faced scoring challenges throughout the season, with 28 goals in 17 league games.
Pochettino acknowledged the team’s struggle to break down opponents and called for patience regarding Nkunku’s integration into the squad.
“(Nkunku has trained) only in the last few weeks, after four or five months he was out,” explained the Argentine. “The team has evolved, and the situation has changed.”
Despite the anticipation surrounding Nkunku, Pochettino stressed the importance of not burdening the new signing with excessive expectations.
“My worry is to put too much pressure on him, to say ‘now has arrived the guy to make us win every single game, to change everything’. I don’t believe it’s going to be like that.”
Nicolas Jackson, Chelsea’s top-scorer this season, leads with eight goals, while Eddie Howe, Newcastle’s manager, is hopeful that his team can draw on the disappointment of losing last season’s League Cup final against Manchester United.
This match at Stamford Bridge also marks Howe’s 100th game in charge of Newcastle since his appointment in November 2021.
“I’ve loved every second of it,” Howe expressed, reflecting on his tenure. “When you look back at a group of games, so many highlights, memories.”
As anticipation builds for Nkunku’s potential debut, both Chelsea and Newcastle are gearing up for a challenging encounter with hopes of advancing in the League Cup.