Pressure is on Chelsea, Potter after cup exit to Man City as Pulisic fails to seize chance
MANCHESTER, England — Manchester City are through to the fourth round of the Carabao Cup after a 2-0 win over Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium. Riyad Mahrez and Julian Alvarez got the goals for Pep Guardiola’s side in the second half, but they also needed an impressive performance from second-choice goalkeeper Stefan Ortega to ensure progress in a competition they won four times in a row between 2018 and 2021.
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Jack Grealish was in top form for City ahead of the England World Cup squad announcement while Kalvin Phillips made his comeback from injury as a second-half substitute. Meanwhile, it was another poor result for Graham Potter’s Chelsea, who couldn’t bounce back from their home defeat to Arsenal on Sunday.
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1. Graham Potter under pressure ahead of the break
Football moves very quickly and Graham Potter’s five wins from his first six games in charge of Chelsea already feel like a distant memory. Exiting the Carabao Cup at Manchester City isn’t going to define Potter’s first season at Stamford Bridge but it’s now just two wins from his last seven games and the 47-year-old is learning very quickly that there is no hiding place at a big club.
Chelsea have dropped to seventh in the Premier League table and face a difficult trip to Newcastle on Saturday in their last game before the World Cup. The break will give Potter time to reflect on his first few weeks at Chelsea but it will also leave a void easily filled with criticism, especially on the back of a poor run. Win at Newcastle and the mood changes again but another poor result would be damaging — particularly without a chance to put things right until after Christmas.
Potter might have faced more serious questions had Roman Abramovich remained in charge but the former Brighton boss will still sleep much more easily if he can guide his team to a much-needed victory at St James’ Park at the weekend.
2. Pulisic starts but struggles
It’s less than two weeks before the United States kick-off their World Cup campaign against Wales on Nov. 21 and coach Gregg Berhalter will have been happy to see Christian Pulisic boost his match fitness ahead of the tournament with a rare start. Whether under Thomas Tuchel or Graham Potter, Pulisic has found opportunities hard to come by and his appearance at the Etihad Stadium was only the fifth time he’s featured in Chelsea’s starting XI this season.
Unfortunately for Berhalter, it wasn’t a performance to suggest Pulisic is heading to Qatar in top form. Playing on the left of Potter’s front three, he had a good chance to score in the first half but after that struggled to impact the game. He was left on as Chelsea went in search of a goal after City had taken control of the game in the second half, but it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see him substituted when Potter made four changes before the 70-minute mark. It summed up Pulisic’s night that when he thought he’d scored in the final minute, it was ruled out for offside. It wasn’t a display likely to convince Potter he deserves another start at Newcastle.
3. Phillips makes his return just in time
Kalvin Phillips’ longest appearance in a City shirt was well-timed with Gareth Southgate set to name his England squad for the World Cup at St George’s Park on Thursday afternoon. The midfielder — who has only managed 14 minutes of action since his summer move from Leeds United — got the final 40 minutes against Chelsea after recovering from a shoulder injury which has ruled him out since September.
Southgate remains keen to lean on players who have done well for him in the past and Phillips was key during the run to the European Championship final last year. Had the 26-year-old remained on the sidelines until the break, the England boss might have found it hard to justify his selection but Phillips has given himself every chance of being included in the squad by returning to the City team in the nick of time.
It wasn’t the only good news from the Etihad for Southgate, who will have been pleased to see John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount on the benches and Grealish in the kind of form which should worry defences in Qatar. Only Grealish will know how he didn’t manage to score after having six shots and three on target.
Manchester City: Ortega 8, Lewis 7, Gomez 6, Dias 7, Laporte 7, Rodri 6, Gundogan 6, Palmer 7, Grealish 8, Mahrez 7, Alvarez 7.
Subs: Phillips 6, Bernardo 6, Ake 6.
Chelsea: Mendy 6, Cucurella 6, Koulibaly 5, Chalobah 5, Loftus-Cheek 6, Hall 6, Kovacic 6, Zakaria 5, Ziyech 6, Pulisic 5, Broja 5.
Subs: Mount 6, Sterling 6, Gallagher 6, Azpilicueta 6, Havertz 6.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Jack Grealish
His performance deserved a goal and he was only denied by Edouard Mendy and some last-ditch Chelsea defending.
WORST: Armando Broja
Left to feed off scraps and was substituted early in the first half.
Highlights and notable moments
Pulisic missed a chance to put Chelsea ahead 1-0 in the second half.
Pulisic misses a golden chance to give Chelsea the lead 🤯 pic.twitter.com/W2Uhcc7CjP
Mahrez opens the scoring with an excellent freekick.
After the match: What the players and managers said
Quotes to come…
– Julian Alvarez is currently on three goals, two assists over last three games in all competitions
Manchester City: Pep Guardiola’s side are hot on the heels of Arsenal in the Premier League, and will host Brentford on Nov. 12 before the World Cup begins. City then travel to Leeds United on Dec. 28 before facing Everton on Dec. 31.
Chelsea: The Blues travel to an in-form Newcastle on Nov. 12, a crucial game for both teams ahead of the World Cup break. Graham Potter’s side then host Bournemouth on Dec. 27 followed by a visit to Nottingham Forest on Jan 1.
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