Cole Palmer has been a class act for Chelsea – he can be a wildcard option for England


While Mauricio Pochettino is not exactly clutching at straws when he said Chelsea are still in the FA Cup and thus his season is not actually over, it feels like he really is.

Monday night’s fortuitous 3-2 Premier League win over mediocre Newcastle United has kept the Blues firmly mid-table.
Chelsea face Championship table-toppers Leicester City in the 1 pm kick-off at Stamford Bridge in the quarter-final of the FA Cup on Sunday. A nice day out at Wembley awaits the winner in the semi-final.
England manager Gareth Southgate was at Stamford Bridge on Monday to run the rule over potential England call-ups for the upcoming international matches.
He announced the squad yesterday, after we went to press, and it was expected that Cole Palmer would be included.
With Euro 2024 qualification secured, Southgate is set to use the friendlies against Brazil and Belgium later this month to cement a few positions but also to introduce a couple of wildcards who could make the difference in a tight match – Palmer certainly fits that bill.
He is the outstanding Chelsea player this season in a group which, let’s be honest, has not had too many players doing themselves justice.
Raheem Sterling was expected to once again be excluded and can now safely say that, under Southgate, his England career is over. In fact Sterling’s Chelsea career is looking like it could come to an end in the summer.
The Blues will be looking to offload a few players to conform to new financial regulations. Sterling could command a hefty transfer fee, especially if he opts to take up an offer from the Saudi league.
Marc Cucurella, just back from injury, is another deemed surplus to requirement.
The Spain left-back has never had the full backing of the Chelsea faithful and is not a player the fans will unduly miss. He was signed from Brighton in 2022 for £55million, but could be sent packing for a hefty loss of £25m.
Gypsy Hill-born Trevoh Chalobah has cemented his place as first-choice centre-back following his long lay-off due to a hamstring problem and should face the Foxes.
Pochettino however might upset the applecart and bring back 39-year-old Thiago Silva, who has recovered from a muscle strain sustained at Crystal Palace but has been benched ever since.
One player who deserves another chance to start is Alfie Gilchrist.
The 20-year-old defender could replace Malo Gusto at right-back. Gusto, another outstanding performer this season, is due a break and this might be the time for it.
Last season, Gilchrist had formed an excellent central-defensive partnership in the U21s with Bashir Humphreys, also 20.
In one of those Sliding Doors moments that can change your life, Gilchrist found himself behind Humphreys when it came to who would go out on loan first.
Exeter-born Humphreys went off to German second tier outfit SC Paderborn last year before extending his time away from SW6 at Swansea City this term.
Gilchrist was left behind, but was in the perfect position to take advantage of the opportunity to be called across the Cobham pitches to join the first team for training when injuries and sales saw the Blues in need of defensive cover.
He went off to pre-season training with the first team and has secured a place on the bench ever since, getting the occasional run-out from the bench before making his full debut against Preston North End in January in the FA Cup.
Who knows where Gilchrist would be now if it was him chosen to make that loan move?

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