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Chelsea secure last-eight spot after Raheem Sterling sinks Blackburn

It is no wonder Mauricio Pochettino spends most of his time watching Chelsea on the edge of the touchline with his hands clasped tightly in his pockets and a tense expression on his face.

Even with his side 2-0 up and cruising against Blackburn thanks to goals from Benoît Badiashile and a rejuvenated Raheem Sterling, the Chelsea manager was a bundle of nerves throughout what turned out to be a comfortable victory in the end.

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But while the lack of cutting edge that has become a hallmark of the Todd Boehly-era in west London still looms large as he prepares for his first return to table-topping Tottenham on Monday night, Pochettino could take heart from Cole Palmer’s brilliant performance as the former Manchester City forward helped to dispatch Jon Dahl Tomasson’s inexperienced side.

Having played his part in Badiashile’s opening goal in the defender’s first appearance of the season with a cheeky nutmeg to combine with Conor Gallagher from a quickly-taken corner, Palmer was also involved in Sterling’s goal that sealed this victory in the second half.

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Carabao Cup quarter-final draw

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Newcastle will travel to Chelsea in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup after knocking out both Manchester clubs. Eddie Howe’s side followed up their victory over City with a 3-0 win over United at Old Trafford with goals from Miguel Almirón, Lewis Hall and Joe Willock.

The Magpies will now face five-times winners Chelsea, who beat Championship Blackburn thanks to goals from Benoît Badiashile and Raheem Sterling at Stamford Bridge.

West Ham’s reward for a 3-1 victory over Arsenal is a trip to Anfield to take on Liverpool, who edged out Bournemouth 2-1 thanks to Darwin Núñez’s superb winner, while Everton will play Fulham.

There will be a team from the English Football League in the semi-finals with League One Port Vale hosting Championship Middlesbrough. PA Media

Draw Everton v Fulham; Chelsea v Newcastle; Port Vale v Middlesbrough; Liverpool v West Ham. Ties to be played week commencing 18 December. 

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Reece James was also a constant menace to Blackburn’s defence as he started for the first time since the opening day of the season on his return from injury and Pochettino admitted he is delighted to have his captain back.

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“He is one of the best full-backs in the world and to have been without him for so long has been difficult,” he said. “But we need to be careful and little by little he will get back to full fitness.”

Blackburn’s fortunes since Andy Cole scored the winning goal that saw off Tottenham in the final of this competition more than 20 years ago under Graeme Souness have seen the Lancashire club drop down to the third tier for a season before coming close to reaching the Championship playoffs in the past two campaigns.

They currently find themselves 12th after an inconsistent start but Tomasson opted against sending out his first-choice team despite Chelsea’s recent vulnerabilities at home, with the 26-year-old captain Lewis Travis the oldest player he selected.

Benoît Badiashile of Chelsea scores the opening goal against Blackburn in the Carabao Cup fourth round.Benoît Badiashile opens the scoring for Chelsea from close range in the first half. Photograph: Javier García/Shutterstock

“It was the millionaires of the Premier League against the youngsters of the Championship,” reflected the former Denmark forward. “We should be proud of this performance.”

Blackburn certainly managed to cause problems for Chelsea even after the hosts made their intentions clear straight from the kick-off when Nicolas Jackson forced a corner when his shot was blocked. Travis was very lucky not to concede a penalty when he slid in against Sterling after 10 minutes, with no VAR to overrule what looked like a clear and obvious error from the referee Tim Robinson.

It took a good save from Leopold Wahlstedt to deny James but Blackburn then enjoyed a good period of possession in their opponents’ half. James was inches away from breaking the deadlock midway through the first half but his shot just eluded the far post before Enzo Fernández forced Wahlstedt to palm away his effort soon afterwards.

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But the Swedish goalkeeper was at fault when Chelsea finally found the goal they were looking for, palming Gallagher’s cross after he had combined with Palmer straight to the feet of Badiashile and he calmly sidefooted home.

Blackburn’s supporters then felt aggrieved when a Callum Brittain cross struck Gallagher’s trailing arm but once again Robinson waved away strong appeals for a penalty.

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The visitors showed they had no intention of surrendering without a fight when Harry Leonard caught Axel Disasi napping and raced onto a long ball at the start of the second half, only to curl his shot wide of the post. Not for the first time, Robert Sánchez was then far too casual as the Chelsea goalkeeper’s pass was almost intercepted.

Almost 15 minutes had passed by the time Fernández had Chelsea’s first effort of the second half. Palmer came closer from a tight angle but, having cleared the ensuing corner, Blackburn shot themselves in the foot as they tried to play out. Brittain’s pass was intercepted by Palmer and Sterling curled home from the edge of the area to give Pochettino some welcome breathing space. Jackson should have made it even more comfortable but blazed over from close range before the post denied the outstanding Palmer a goal with a deflected shot.

Sterling could and probably should have added to his tally after finding space in behind Blackburn’s defence on more than one occasion in the closing stages. But it was Palmer who was afforded a standing ovation when he was withdrawn at the end as Chelsea’s supporters celebrated only their fourth home win of the season – three of them in this competition.