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Pochettino insists Chelsea spirits high despite lack of silverware

MAURICIO POCHETTINO insisted that spirits are high at Chelsea despite facing a third straight season without major silverware, after they kept up their push for Europe with a 5-0 demolition of West Ham.

The Blues have produced an excellent response to their own five-goal dismantling at the hands of Arsenal late in April, recovering to take seven points from their last three games to put themselves firmly in the picture for Europa League qualification.

They ripped into David Moyes’s hapless Hammers with a ruthlessness to suggest the players are, after a slow start, at last responding to the methods of their head coach, as they made it 22 goals scored in their last six Premier League outings at Stamford Bridge.

“I cannot describe the season as a successful season if you don’t win a title at Chelsea,” said Pochettino. 

“Again, expectation is always to win titles. Circumstances have shown that the reality was really, really tough, from day one until today. But deep inside, the players and staff that were living in the reality, I think the staff are happy and the players are so happy.”

Chelsea trail Newcastle by two points in the race to finish sixth, though Manchester United are also in the hunt and can leapfrog both sides if they beat Crystal Palace on Monday night.

The criteria for Europe hinges on whether or not United are victorious in the FA Cup final on May 25. Should they lose to Manchester City then sixth place in the league will be enough for the Europa League while the team finishing seventh will go into the Conference League.

If United lift the cup, however, then only the team finishing fifth in the league — likely to be Tottenham — will qualify for the Europa League, sixth will get the Conference League while seventh place will miss out entirely.

After Chelsea fans at the Emirates Stadium questioned the fight of the players during the thrashing by Arsenal, the team have shown exemplary spirit to get their season back on track, recovering from 2-0 down and largely dominating in a draw against fourth-placed Aston Villa before dispatching London rivals Spurs and West Ham at home in the space of four days.

They finish the campaign with trips to Nottingham Forest and Brighton before signing off at home to Bournemouth on May 19.

“In the really tough moments, we keep pushing,” said Pochettino. “We really believe and we never give up. Even with the criticism of many things, we were there.

“That’s the important thing, when we talk about experience and quality and capacity to deal with things. We will enjoy today, this type of performance.

“Now it’s about being clever and smart and to keep this momentum until the end of the season.”

Hammers boss Moyes, who has seen his side fall out of contention to qualify for a fourth successive European campaign after a run of one league win in nine, pointed to the loss of Declan Rice last summer as the reason for his team’s defensive frailties.

His team have conceded 70 league goals in 36 games since Rice was sold to Arsenal, including five in each of their last two away outings.

“When you’ve got the best midfield player in the country [Rice] protecting, making sure to limit 50 per cent of the attacks, when you get that it makes you a much better defensive team,” said Moyes.

“We’ve lacked protection in front of the back four, we’ve lacked good enough defending. We’ve just not been good enough at those things.”

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