Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino has revealed Noni Madueke wasn’t injured for Chelsea’s clash with Brighton on Wednesday, and that his lack of involvement was merely a “choice” he made.
Chelsea claimed just their third win of the season as Nicolas Jackson’s goal proved to be the difference against the Seagulls in a 1-0 win that sees the Blues into the fourth round of the Carabao Cup, where they will face Blackburn.
Pochettino made five changes from the side which were beaten 1-0 by Aston Villa in the Premier League last Sunday as Cole Palmer, Ian Maatsen, Lesley Ugochukwu and Marc Cucurella were given chances to impress from the start.
But there was no place for Madueke, who scored in the 2-1 win over Wimbledon in the previous round of the Carabao Cup but has played for just 44 minutes in the Premier League this season.
The 21-year-old has been recovering from a slight muscle strain picked up on international duty, but Pochettino has revealed that he was fully fit for the clash with Brighton, just wasn’t selected.
When asked about Madueke’s absence after Chelsea’s win at Stamford Bridge, Pochettino replied: “It’s about choice, it’s about choice. Election.”
The fact that there was space on the bench for teenage forwards Alex Matos and Deivid Washington isn’t a great sign for Madueke, who moved to the Blues from PSV Eindhoven for €35m in January.
Much-maligned full-back Cucurella struggled on his return to the team in the first half but came out after the break like a man possessed – ‘What an animal!’ teammate Enzo Fernandez wrote on the Spaniard’s Instagram after the win.
Cole Palmer, who was handed his first start since joining Chelsea in a £42.5 million deal earlier this month, also impressed, and Pochettino reserved special praise for the former Manchester City playmaker after the game.
“I think like all of the team, I think the team was really good,” Pochettino said.
“If we assess all of the players, I think we are in a very good level.
“Cole is a very talented player, he was key in this victory tonight. Still young, still needs to settle in the club, not only the team, in the club and the city. I think we saw today how good he is.”