Poch defends Sterling after Chelsea fans' boos: 'They need to trust us'

Mauricio Pochettino has defended Raheem Sterling after the forward came under-fire for his performance against Leicester, while also addressing boos towards himself during the game.

Sterling had a string of moments to forget during a 4-2 win in the FA Cup quarter-final. He missed a penalty in the first half, while also sending a free-kick high into the stands later in the game.

He missed another clear chance earlier in the game, although Sterling did assist Cole Palmer’s goal to double Chelsea’s lead.

Palmer has often been the Blues’ penalty taker and addressing the incident after the game, Pochettino said: “Cole gave the ball to Raheem. I think they have a good relationship from Man City.

“When Raheem asked to take the penalty, you can see Cole [give him the ball]. It’s not a problem – Cole can miss, Raheem can miss. For me, the decision is theirs and I want to always support the decision of my players on the pitch.”

When further discussing the performance of Sterling, Pochettino was firm in his support for his player, adding: “It’s obvious that I cannot hide anything. The feelings weren’t good for him, but I’m going to support him and today is a great opportunity to support him.

Raheem Sterling misses a penalty against Leicester
Raheem Sterling missed a penalty in the first half for Chelsea

“He has an unbelievable CV, he’s played in big teams and he’s an experienced player. He missed a penalty and some chances, but I’m happy with him and we are going to support him.

The chance is to show we are building something. It’s my decision as always to play with eleven players, always doing the best for the team, the club and fans. It’s keep going, being strong and believing in the way we are doing things.”

Pochettino unconcerned by fans’ boos towards himself

Sterling was not the only figure to receive the ire of Chelsea’s home crowd, with Pochettino also targeted with boos during the match – and not for the first time this season.

One of those came with his first substitution as Mykhailo Mudryk made way for Carney Chukwuemeka – despite the crowd wanting Sterling replaced.

Pochettino said that he was not worried about the fans’ perceived anger, going on to say: “That is why I made a decision. I am not only here to do whatever the people want. Also, I am not stupid.

“We analysed Mudryk and he was tired, he was doing some stretching and we thought that maybe he would not finish the game. Then we decided to first go for Mudryk and then for Raheem.

“We need to see everything, we are professional and we want to win. I completely understand the situation, but that doesn’t mean that I agree.

“We conceded a lot, they feel emotional because they’re disappointed, but it’s normal that they don’t agree with some decisions because it’s the feeling.

Axel Disasi reacts after scoring an own goal against Leicester
Axel Disasi also scored an own-goal in the second half to help Chelsea back into the game

“We have very clever fans, they realise the situation and then when they are on the street, I am always open to talk with them and they show their support for us.”

He also asked Chelsea fans to keep their trust in the club as a whole, not just Pochettino himself.

“They need to trust in the club,” he added. “If I’m here, it is for decision of the club. It is not to trust in me or the players, it’s to trust in what the club is doing and what they think is good for the club and the fans.

“Trust in everyone, not only me.”

Poch: This team deserves big credit

Carney Chukwuemeka is mobbed after scoring a late goal to restore Chelsea's lead against Leicester
Carney Chukwuemeka scored a late goal to restore Chelsea’s lead against Leicester

Despite a less-than consistent season for Chelsea, they have booked themselves another trip to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-finals.

They played there at the end of February, losing to Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final, and could make it three appearances at Wembley this season should they reach the final.

It has been somewhat of a contrast to their Premier League form, where they remain in 11th place, but Pochettino remains confident in his project at Chelsea.

“We are close and I really believe that we can get better results in the last 10 games and be higher in our position,” he said.

“The most important thing is building little-by-little, build our relationship, build a squad that can be more consistent. The key is to identify all the things we need to change little-by-little during the season and next season, to have ambition is what we need to be stronger with the talented players we have, but they need to progress also.

“They have time also to realise that football isn’t just flashes, it’s not only action, it’s being consistent in two phases of the game. The Premier League is tough but we were not lucky in results. In the Carabao Cup and now in FA Cup, we are doing well.

“The team deserve big credit. When we play with less pressure on the team, they feel better and give chances to progress.

“The Premier League is tough, and you need more time to be more mature and experienced because how you deal with game is completely different.

“But finding balance, we are in a good way even if we are disappointed with the position in the table, but I believe we can move forward.”

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