Cole Palmer: Chelsea qualifying for Europe would be ‘step in right direction’

Cole Palmer says Chelsea’s players “love” manager Mauricio Pochettino and believes returning to European competition next season would be a “step in the right direction” for the club.

Pochettino’s future has been subject to constant speculation following an underwhelming first Premier League campaign at Stamford Bridge.

Yet the resurgent Blues, who finished 12th last term, need only a point at home to Bournemouth on the final day to clinch sixth position following Wednesday evening’s 2-1 success at Brighton.

In-form forward Palmer, who has played a key role in the late surge up the table and opened the scoring at the Amex Stadium with his 22nd top-flight goal of the season, feels progress is being made under Pochettino.

“For it to be in our hands to get sixth place is big for us,” he told Chelsea’s website. “Hopefully we can do it.

“Chelsea is a big club, everyone wants to finish higher than sixth, but we have to look at where we’ve been at the start of the season, throughout the season.

“We’ve been 13th and 12th this season. Last season was the same, so to get back into Europe is a step in the right direction.

Chelsea are on the cusp of qualifying for Europe under Mauricio Pochettino
Chelsea are on the cusp of qualifying for Europe under Mauricio Pochettino (Adam Davy/PA)

“It’s been a good season and hopefully we can get European football at the end of it.”

Chelsea moved three points behind fifth-placed Tottenham and three clear of Newcastle and Manchester United thanks to a fourth consecutive win.

Palmer’s eye-catching looping header paved the way for victory in Sussex, with substitute Christopher Nkunku doubling the advantage before Seagulls forward Danny Welbeck pulled one back after Blues captain Reece James was sent off for kicking out at Joao Pedro.

England international Palmer has now equalled the best goal tally for a Premier League season of Chelsea’s all-time record scorer Frank Lampard.

“Getting 22 goals in the Premier League is a big achievement,” said the 22-year-old, who was targeted by Brighton last summer before moving to west London in a £40million deal from Manchester City.

“Obviously Lampard is one of the best Chelsea players in history, but hopefully I can keep going.

“‘It’s my first season but I’ve got to keep pushing on. It might be tough to get more next season, but I will give it a go.”.

While Chelsea lost England defender James to suspension and Ukraine winger Mykhailo Mudryk to concussion ahead of the weekend finale against the Cherries, Brighton are awaiting news on skipper Lewis Dunk.

Brighton captain Lewis Dunk, left, was forced off injured against Chelsea
Brighton captain Lewis Dunk, left, was forced off injured against Chelsea (Adam Davy/PA)

Welbeck, who marked his two-year contract extension with the late consolation, told Albion’s website: “We know Dunky, he’s a soldier, a warrior, so hopefully his injury’s not too bad and we can have him for the last game of the season.

“But, if not, we know we’ve got players within the squad that can come in and play their part.

“We’ve got to analyse and see where we can do much better and finish the season strongly against United on Sunday.”

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