Cole Palmer a doubt for Chelsea’s London derby showdown with Arsenal

Full-back Malo Gusto could also miss the Premier League fixture on Tuesday night

Lawrence Ostlere
Tuesday 23 April 2024 14:07 BST
Arteta discurses the influence Pochettino has had on his professional career

Cole Palmer is a major doubt for tonight’s Premier League encounter with Arsenal after the Chelsea forward missed Monday’s training with illness.

Palmer is in the midst of a stunning season for the Blues with 20 Premier League goals – joint top with Manchester City’s Erling Haaland – and nine assists from 28 games.

The 21-year-old scored four goals in Chelsea’s last league match, a 6-0 win over Everton, and played in the FA Cup semi-final defeat by Manchester City on Saturday. He got through the full 90 minutes at Wembley despite picking up an early knock and playing with some strapping on his thigh.

But Palmer could be missing from Mauricio Pochettino’s team when they take on title challengers Arsenal in a London derby at the Emirates Stadium, after falling unwell.

“We need to assess [Tuesday],” said Pochettino of Palmer’s chances. “Today, no, I don’t believe he can be involved. Even if he will be good tomorrow, he may not be in a condition to play.

“With and without him, we believe that we can win. The most important thing is the collective. Of course he’s an important part of the team. He’s doing fantastic for us. But we have plenty of players that can perform and do the job.”

Pochettino defended the contributions of striker Nicolas Jackson on his debut season for the club, after he missed multiple opportunities against City to put Chelsea in the final. The 22-year-old has improved significantly in recent weeks after struggling in the aftermath of his £32m summer move from Villarreal, but three times at Wembley he failed to make the most of clear openings.

Pochettino has been forced to rely on the player – who has scored 10 goals in the league – far more than the club had intended, with fellow signing Christopher Nkunku having been limited by injury to a handful of appearances since joining from RB Leipzig.

Cole Palmer has been in sensational form for Chelsea this season
Cole Palmer has been in sensational form for Chelsea this season (Getty Images)

“First season is always difficult but more when you are a striker and you have to perform and score goals. Everyone expects with every single touch to score,” Pochettino added. “He’s our main striker, the only striker we have fit. He’s doing fantastic. He’s doing an amazing job for the team; running, scoring goals, giving assists. His first season, a young guy, came in from Spain, even with not too much experience there.

“If we want the player to match the iconic players here, if we compare him with Drogba, obviously he’s going to lose. But he’s going to have all my support. Even if he doesn’t score, the way that he’s fighting for the club and his teammates, he’s producing chances. He needs time to improve. He’ll be better next season for sure, no doubt about that.”

Chelsea could also be missing full-back Malo Gusto after the French defender joined the injury list, needing to be replaced late in the game against City. Pochettino is still without a number of players in the longer term, including Nkunku, Romeo Lavia, Levi Colwill, Wesley Fofana and captain Reece James, while Ben Chilwell is also being assessed.

Chelsea are currently ninth in the Premier League table, but would climb to seventh and join Newcastle and Manchester United on 50 points with a win. Arsenal, meanwhile, are top of the league but cannot afford a slip-up as they try to hold off Liverpool and Manchester City in the race to win the league.

The Gunners beat Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday, returning to winning ways after losing to Aston Villa the previous weekend and being knocked out of the Champions League with a loss at Bayern Munich.

“Winning gives a big boost of energy, we have a London derby to look to and everyone is ready for it,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said. “I think [Chelsea] deserve to be much higher in the league, when you look at what they have done, what they have produced in games.

“When you look at their squad, they have the quality; much better than people thought. And we are going to get a tough match tomorrow for sure.”

He added: “We are in a great position in the Premier League. We have been like this for nine months... we want, really, to give it a real go. We are really determined to do what is in our hands, to try to lift the trophy.”

Arsenal vs Chelsea will be broadcast live on TNT Sports 1, kick-off 8pm

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