Chelsea rewarded for 'patience' as Europe beckons after late-season surge

Blues seal fourth successive victory with 2-1 win at Brighton to move up to sixth in the Premier League table

Powered by automated translation

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino said the club is being rewarded for its patience after Wednesday night's Premier League win over Brighton moved the Blues to the brink of European qualification.

Chelsea sealed their fourth successive victory, 2-1 at Brighton's Amex Stadium, following a superb Cole Palmer header and Chris Nkunku's low finish.

It should have been much more comfortable for the visitors, but a needless late red card shown to captain Reece James opened the door for Brighton, who scored through Danny Welbeck in injury time and continued to push late for an equaliser.

The victory continues a remarkable late surge from Chelsea, who moved up to sixth following Manchester United's 3-2 win over Newcastle. Only four games ago, Chelsea were in ninth, 12 points behind fifth-placed Tottenham, yet a victory on the final day combined with a defeat for Spurs will move the Blues up to fifth.

If Chelsea avoid defeat to Bournemouth on Sunday, they are guaranteed European football next season, although the outcome of the FA Cup final will depend on which competition. Victory for Manchester City will secure a Europa League place, but a win for United will see the Blues drop into the Europa Conference League.

Whatever the outcome, it will still mark a fine revival masterminded by Pochettino, who has faced criticism throughout his troubled first season in charge.

Amid calls for his sacking, Pochettino even hinted recently that he could quit at the end of the season and said it wouldn't be the "end of the world" if he was dismissed by chairman Todd Boehly.

But the Argentine was in a more buoyant mood after Chelsea closed in on Europe, praising the club's hierarchy for sticking with their plan.

"We have improved results and performances. We talked about patience and when you need to build something you need time but it always looks like an excuse at a big club," he said.

"The evolution of the team is there. We have kept working and being positive and to finish in a good way would be good for the club."

Despite spending over £1 billion ($1.2 billion) on new signings in their two-year reign, Boehly's consortium has left Pochettino with a young squad, whose lack of experience has often been their downfall. The Argentine has also been significantly impacted by long-term injuries to several key players throughout the season.

But Pochettino said the win at Brighton showed they are fighting for the club.

"The Premier League is the toughest league in the world. Massive credit to the players, we fully deserved the victory. That's why I'm so happy. It allows us to dream to play in Europe next season," he said.

"The three points puts us in a very good position in the table to attack the last game against Bournemouth for the possibility to be in Europe."

Palmer has been the star turn for Chelsea this season following his surprise move from City in September.

The young England forward's latest goal – his 22nd in the Premier League and 27th overall – was further repayment on Chelsea's shrewd £42m investment after he was granted his wish to leave City in search of regular playing time.

"Chelsea is a big club and everyone wants to finish higher than sixth but you have to look at where we were at the start of the season so to get back into Europe would be a step in the right direction," Palmer said.

"All credit to the manager. All the players love the manager and want to fight for him."

For Brighton, a promising season has petered out to the point where they are at risk of finishing in the bottom half of the table. The Seagulls won five of their first six games to fly high in the table but form has declined dramatically; five defeats and three draws in their last nine matches have seen them tumble down the standings and could finish as low as 12th heading into the final day of the season.

“We want to finish the season in the top 10, it won’t be a great result if we compare to last season, but if we consider the many problems we have had it can be considered a good result," Brighton manager De Zerbi said. "We are happy for this season, but maybe not enough.”

Updated: May 16, 2024, 6:02 AM