Soccer-Aftermath of League Cup loss was hardest in a tough season for Pochettino's Chelsea

Soccer Football - Carabao Cup - Final - Chelsea v Liverpool - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - February 25, 2024 Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino before the match REUTERS/Carl Recine/ File photo

(Reuters) - In what has been a tough first season at Chelsea for Mauricio Pochettino, the days following last weekend's League Cup final loss to Liverpool have been the hardest, the manager said on Friday.

Chelsea have 10 wins from their 25 league games as their expensive squad has struggled for consistency and are 11th in the Premier League, but the 1-0 defeat after extra time at Wembley has probably hit the hardest.

"Maybe yes, because we feel disappointed and we had faith in our ability to win," Pochettino told a press conference before Saturday's league game with Brentford.

"We were so close and after 90 minutes I think we were the best side. But we didn't keep the energy after 90 minutes and that's when we lost the game."

Chelsea needed to recover quickly for their FA Cup fifth round game with Leeds United on Wednesday, which they won 3-2, and Pochettino spoke of the meetings he had with his side.

"We met after the game, in a different place, not at Wembley. The players started to feel in good spirits, but in some points disappointed and painful," the manager said.

"But Monday and Tuesday they were very open. They all wanted to play, even if some of them were really tired and with some problems. That speaks very highly of our squad and players."

Two players who missed the League Cup final and the midweek game are defenders Thiago Silva, absent for the last three games, and Marc Cucurella, who has been out since December after ankle surgery.

"We need to assess him (Silva) and Marc Cucurella. Maybe it is possible to be involved in the squad, it's good news," Pochettino said.

One player who won't be involved is Christopher Nkunku. The French forward missed most of the first half of the season with a knee injury, and after making his Chelsea debut in December, he missed the Leeds game through injury.

"He suffered a problem in his hamstring and we will see in a few weeks if he is available," the manager said.

"Unlucky, because to suffer again another injury is tough for a player that didn't play too much during the season and also came from Germany with some problems."

Chelsea are away to 16th placed Brentford on Saturday.

(Reporting by Trevor Stynes; Editing by Toby Davis)

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