Even while Chelsea is struggling in the English Premier League, its form in cup competitions could yet see it end the season with a trophy or two.
With a place in the League Cup semifinals already, Chelsea advanced to the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday after pasting Preston North End 4-0.
That could give U.S. owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital cause for optimism in a crisis-ridden run since their takeover in 2022.
At 10th in the league, Chelsea looks likely to miss out on qualifying for the Champions League for a second year in a row. But manager Mauricio Pochettino is finding joy in the domestic cups, extended against second-division Preston after Armando Broja, Thiago Silva, Raheem Sterling and Enzo Fernandez scored in a second-half rout at Stamford Bridge.
“The first half I was a little disappointed. We started so sloppy,” Pochettino said. “I told the players at halftime we needed to increase the energy and match that of Preston. The second half was a completely different game. We dominated, created chances and deserved victory.”
In the League Cup, Chelsea will face second-division Middlesbrough over two legs in the semifinals, and is favored to meet Liverpool or Fulham in the final.
But Pochettino will note how close Middlesbrough was to forcing a replay against Aston Villa before eventually losing 1-0 against the second-placed team in the Premier League.
Matty Cash scored an 87th-minute winner at Riverside Stadium.
As well as being an unlikely league title contender, Villa has reached the knockout stage of the Europa Conference League.
“Which competition is the most important? We have to go into each match and get the best result,” Villa manager Unai Emery said. “The first target is to be consistent through the Premier League and then to try be consistent in the Conference League and the FA Cup.”
Alexander Isak scored twice as Newcastle won the first northeast derby in eight years against Sunderland 3-0 in front of a fervent crowd at the Stadium of Light. Dan Ballard’s own goal gave Newcastle a first half lead.
“I never worried about the draw, I always thought it was a great draw — as long as we won it,” Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said. “We handled the occasion well, were brave with the ball and were very composed. We didn’t let the crowd take over.”
Newcastle had won just one of its previous eight games and was eliminated from the Champions League and League Cup. The derby against second-division Sunderland was seen as a difficult encounter but Newcastle comfortably beat Sunderland for the first time in 13 years.
“It has been a long time since we’ve played this type of game,” Newcastle defender Dan Burn said. “If you can ask fans whether they would rather advance in the Champions League or beat Sunderland, I think they would pick beating Sunderland.”
Trailing at second-division Queens Park Rangers 2-0, Bournemouth was in danger of defeat. But Marcus Tavernier sparked a second-half comeback. Further goals from Kieffer Moore and Justin Kluivert sealed a 3-2 win.
Brighton was also behind to second division opposition after Jan Paul van Hecke’s 16th-minute own goal at Stoke. Pervis Estupinan leveled for the Premier League team in first-half stoppage time and Lewis Dunk added another goal early in the second half.
Lewis Baker equalized for Stoke from the penalty spot, but two Joao Pedro goals completed a 4-2 win for Brighton.
There were no scares for Sheffield United, which picked up only its third win of the season in all competitions by beating fourth-division Gillingham 4-0.
Leicester, which won the cup in 2021, beat Millwall 3-2.
The 2016 Premier League champion is enjoying an impressive season after being relegated from the top-flight last year. Leicester has a 10-point lead atop division two, and victory against Millwall was its 24th in 30 games in all competitions.
Non-league Maidstone can dream of a date with one of the giants of English soccer after beating third-division Stevenage 1-0. Sam Corne’s penalty in the 45th settled the match.
Another non-league team, Eastleigh, will be in the draw for the fourth round after holding fourth-division Newport to 1-1.
But Chesterfield suffered an agonizing exit at second-division Watford. Chesterfield led 1-0 at halftime at Vicarage Road and was on course for a replay at 1-1 going into added on time. But Tom Dele-Bashiru’s winner in the fifth minute of stoppage time sealed Watford’s comeback.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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