Mauricio Pochettino challenged his Chelsea players to match Luton’s fight and to expect “real football” at Kenilworth Road when the teams meet on Saturday.
The visitors have lost four in a row away from home in the Premier League and are without a win on the road since beating nine-man Tottenham early in November.
By contrast, Rob Edwards’ side go into the game off the back of their first consecutive victories of the season, having defeated Newcastle and Sheffield United to pull to within a point of safety.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 28, 2023
A third straight win in the lunchtime kick-off would see them escape the bottom three at least until other sides play later in the day.
Plenty of big teams have struggled at Luton’s 11,500-capacity home ground this season, with Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City all falling behind, though the Hatters took only one point from those three fixtures.
Victory against Eddie Howe’s side saw them finally hold on for a famous win, adding to three points won against Crystal Palace in November, to put life into their top-flight survival bid.
Pochettino admitted the trip to Kenilworth Road appealed to the football romantic in him, but warned his team against expecting anything other than a fight to end their poor away run against Edwards’ buoyant side.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 27, 2023
“I’m an old man, I am romantic,” he said. “I love football of the past and this kind of stadium makes you remember when I started to play.
“It’s a stadium that smells different. It’s not luxury in the way that we recognise luxury today. This type of stadium is one where you love to be there. It’s history, it’s completely different.
“Today we are living in a different era, but when you go there, you feel real football.
“We need to go to Luton thinking that it’s going to be really tough. The stadium, the fans, it’s a team that loves to fight and work really hard.
“If we want to get a good result, we need to be ready of course to play football, but we need to match the desire, the capacity to fight for every single ball. It’s going to be a good test for us.”
Chelsea will assess Mykhailo Mudryk and Romeo Lavia ahead of the game after both picked up injuries during Wednesday’s 2-1 win against Crystal Palace.
Mudryk was withdrawn with 20 minutes to play having scored his side’s opening goal in the first half, whilst Lavia could be seen struggling towards the end having been sent on for his debut for the final half-hour.
“Lavia felt some issue and we need to check,” said Pochettino. “I’m a little bit worried.
“I changed his position at the end because he was struggling to run. I hope it’s not a big issue. It’s going to be a shame if we can’t use him in the next few days.”
Pochettino confirmed that time off for the players over the new year will depend on what kind of result they return with from Kenilworth Road.
“That is the plan, to win and then give (them) one or two days off depending on the circumstance.”