Graham Potter tells £130m Chelsea trio to follow Cucurella blueprint after Sterling injury blow


To the surprise of many, Marc Cucurella was brought back in from the cold to start Chelsea's pivotal Champions League clash against Borussia Dortmund. After missing out on the last three matchday squads, with Graham Potter wanting to keep the same formation that saw the Blues beat Leeds, Cucurella was deployed on the left of a back three in place of Benoit Badiashile who had been omitted from the Blues' knockout stage squad.

Following his £62million move from Brighton in the summer, Cucurella has struggled to offer the Blues the same impact he was providing on the south coast. The arrival of Graham Potter at Stamford Bridge in September as the man who get the best out of Cucurella at Brighton looked set to change that, but his fortunes did not improve.

The injury to Ben Chilwell often meant Cucurella was named in the starting XI by Potter. Against West Ham in mid- February, the latter was replaced by the former, with the Chelsea fans booing Cucurella as he went off and cheering gleefully as Chilwell entered the fray. In response to the boos, Potter said:

"He knows he is probably not in the best moment of form but he isn't the only player who has to come through a moment. He is a player the club invested money in during the summer and it is our job to help him, support him, and bring him to the place where he is showing everyone his qualities."

While Chelsea have been criticised for making too many signings and having a bloated squad, in this case it has allowed Potter to take Cucurella out of the spotlight. In his return match, the Spanish defender delivered a man of the match defensive performance to help Chelsea quality for the Champions League quarter-finals with a 2-0 win over Dortmund at Stamford Bridge to win the tie 2-1 on aggregate.

"I'm delighted for him," Potter said when asked about Cucurella. "Obviously when you're having a bad time like we've had then you accept the criticism, you have to deal with it. Marc has dealt with it well. We've tried to shield him a little bit and at the same time pick the moment.

"I thought tonight, regardless of the situation, the crowd were going to get behind us because it's the Champions League. Tonight, with Benoit not available, I thought he [Cucurella] gave us the left foot and balance in the back-three and thankfully he delivered a top performance."

Cucurella's performance has given Potter a tough decision for the weekend, with Badiashile available once again. The Chelsea head coach looks as though he will also face some difficulties when picking his front line with a fresh injury blow. "Raheem [Sterling] has had a little feeling in his hamstring, tightness if anything, so he's looking doubtful," he said.

Since his return from injury, Sterling has looked bright which has led to him starting the last three games, but his absent will present a superb opportunity for several Chelsea stars. Noni Madueke (£35m), Mykhailo Mudryk (£62m) and Hakim Ziyech (£33.5m) could all come into the team and Potter has already told the player who could start over Sterling exactly what to do against Leeds.

"Look at the situation with Marc Cucurella, for example. He wasn't in the squad but came in against Dortmund and played a really good game and contributed to us winning," added Potter. "The players know that they have to be ready. That is how football works. They have to be ready, keep fighting, and make sure when the chance comes, they are ready to play."

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