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Pochettino lauds Emery as ‘one of world’s best’ ahead of Cup clash

Mauricio Pochettino believes he will be going up against “one of the best coaches in the world” when his Chelsea side take on Unai Emery’s Aston Villa in the FA Cup.

Chelsea secured a place in the League Cup final on Tuesday and the Blues will look to make progress in another knockout competition when they face Villa in the fourth round of the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge on Friday.

Villa are just five points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool, with the Birmingham club having undergone a revival since Spanish boss Emery arrived from Villarreal in 2022.

“I think that Unai Emery is one of the best coaches in the world and he’s creating a very good organisation at Aston Villa,” Pochettino told a press conference on Thursday.

“They have very good players, amazing players.

“It is clear the project of Aston Villa and that’s why they are performing and winning games.”

The Argentinian added: “It doesn’t surprise me (that they are in the top four) I am so happy for him and all the people involved in this project.

“You can feel that they are a very solid team with clear ideas. It is a very good group of players.”

Ollie Watkins’s second-half goal was all that separated the two sides during Villa’s 1-0 league victory over the 10-man Blues at Stamford Bridge in September.

But Pochettino was adamant Chelsea would have won the game but for Malo Gusto’s 58th-minute red card for a challenge on Lucas Digne and felt his side lost confidence after the defeat.

“To be honest this was the type of game we should win,” Pochettino said.

“We had chances to score before Gusto got sent off in the second half and we performed really well.

“All the confidence went to Birmingham and we lost all the confidence for us to be in the position that they are now.

“I think it was an even game but they were clinical in the second half. We deserved more but full credit to them for what they are doing.

“We cannot play with 10 men against a team like Aston Villa because they can punish you.”

Chelsea’s 6-1 second-leg semi-final thrashing of Championship club Middlesbrough in the League Cup took them into a Wembley final against Liverpool on February 25.

The Blues lost both the 2022 FA and League Cup finals to Liverpool and they are now bidding for their first trophy since lifting that year’s Club World Cup.

Pochettino, acknowledging the “massive challenge” posed by Jurgen Klopp’s in-form Liverpool, said: “We are going to face a very solid and consistent team. They will be a tough opponent and it will be a massive challenge for us.

“It has all the ingredients in the final to be a massive challenge and it will be good to play Liverpool. It will be tough but it will be a great final.”

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