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Carabao Cup: Merson defends Chelsea star, warns Pochettino

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Arsenal legend Paul Merson has defended Chelsea forward Cole Palmer ahead of the Blues’ Carabao Cup semi-final second leg tie with Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.

Merson also issued a warning to Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino ahead of the Middlesbrough clash.

Recall that Palmer missed good chances as Pochettino’s side lost 1-0 against the Championship club in the semi-final first-leg encounter earlier this month.

“If they [Chelsea] did lose to Middlesbrough, where would it leave Mauricio Pochettino? Middlesbrough will try to get out and frustrate Chelsea,” Merson told Sky Sports.

“They have got to take it in segments, maybe 10 minutes or 20 minutes at a time. Middlesbrough just need to get through the first 20 minutes but if they don’t, I will be shocked. Chelsea don’t blow teams away so Middlesbrough will be in this game for a long time.

“Cole Palmer just had one of those days in the first game. He’s a top player and I don’t look at that performance and go, ‘He can’t do it at the top level’ – he got in the positions but he’s not a natural finisher.

“No disrespect to him but when he went through one-on-one and dragged it past the post, that is normal. It just showed it didn’t fall at his feet the other day.”

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