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Pochettino urges Chelsea to use FA Cup as route into Europe

Mauricio Pochettino has challenged inconsistent Chelsea to use the FA Cup as a route into Europe as they prepare for Saturday’s third-round tie against Preston.

Pochettino’s side are 11 points adrift of fifth place in the Premier League and face an uphill struggle to qualify for next season’s Champions League or Europa League.

After a troubled first half of the season, Pochettino knows the FA Cup could provide some much-needed solace for Chelsea.

Ahead of Championship team Preston’s visit to Stamford Bridge, the Argentine acknowledged FA Cup glory in May would earn them a place in the Europa League.

They will also be looking to secure a back-up spot in the Europa Conference League by winning the League Cup.

Pochettino’s side face Middlesbrough in the League Cup semi-final over two legs beginning on Tuesday, with the second leg set for January 23.

“Of course (we can win the FA Cup),” Pochettino said on Friday. “The Carabao (League) Cup and the FA Cup are competitions we need to try to go far in. 

“But we need to build our run step by step and the first step is Saturday. It’s a really important competition for us, because we are not in Europe.

“In the Premier League, we are in a position that we need to grow and improve a lot if we want to be in Europe next season. Through the FA Cup or League Cup we can achieve that.”

With a long FA Cup run in mind, Pochettino confirmed there will not be wholesale changes from the Chelsea team that won 3-2 at Luton in their last Premier League game.

He hinted at a possible start for striker Armando Broja, with Christopher Nkunku only fit enough for the bench and Senegal’s Nicolas Jackson having departed for the Africa Cup of Nations.

“We are going to treat it like a Premier League game. Just because it’s the FA Cup and it’s a Championship team, we are going to respect Preston,” he said. 

“Armando is going to be a possibility to play. But Christopher is not going to start. He suffered some issue during the week.”

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