Chelsea: Mauricio Pochettino’s pre-season punishment producing the goods with Raheem Sterling

Chelsea: Mauricio Pochettino’s pre-season punishment producing the goods with Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling is looking back to his best in attack, but Mauricio Pochettino still needs to find a killer in front of goal.

Chelsea will look to Sterling again as a creator when they bid to get their season up and running against Luton at Stamford Bridge tonight.

The 28-year-old was in devastating form in last Sunday's 3-1 defeat at West Ham, winning a penalty missed by Enzo Fernandez and creating several chances.

It was arguably his best performance in a Chelsea shirt since his £50million move from Manchester City in 2022.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Now Pochettino needs him to improve on a goal record of nine in 40 games for Chelsea since the start of last season.

"I'm a player that needs to be driving, action after action," said Sterling after his display at London Stadium. "If I'm not doing that I'm nowhere near my best. I have to turn, drive and be aggressive."

Sterling looked fired up in the second half against West Ham, squaring up to Emerson Palmieri after being brought down.

Chelsea chased the game but continued to be wasteful, just as they were throughout last season. Sterling has looked at Pochettino's record of improving players, particularly attackers who need to step up. The lengths at which Pochettino has gone to bring performances out of him has impressed Sterling.

"I don't know if it's a coincidence or not," said Pochettino yesterday. "We were talking a lot this week and we trust him. He's a player that can deliver what we want."

Sterling has a good off-field relationship with Pochettino and has bought into his vision. Pochettino is succeeding where Graham Potter failed with Sterling, who suffered from regular changes in positions last season.

Sterling needs to perform not just for Chelsea but for his own hopes of returning to the England squad for Euro 2024 next summer.

Pochettino's gruelling pre-season work means Sterling is also physically back at his best.

Michail Antonio, who faced him last weekend, was surprised by what he saw, saying: "After the game, we were calling him Sonic! I have not seen a man move that quickly with a football, it was madness. He was driving everywhere!"

For all Sterling's good work and Pochettino's improvements, Chelsea have just one point from their first two matches. Nicolas Jackson, Carney Chukwuemeka, Mykhailo Mudryk and Ben Chilwell have all been guilty of squandering key chances.

Mudryk is now out injured, joining Chukwuemeka, Armando Broja and Christopher Nkunku on the sidelines. Noni Madueke is available again and could make his first start for Pochettino tonight.

Chelsea were already targeting a new forward but injuries have increased their need. After being turned down by Crystal Palace winger Michael Olise, Chelsea are now weighing up moves for Nottingham Forest forward Brennan Johnson, Ajax's Mohammed Kudus or Lyon winger Bradley Barcola.

Regardless of Chelsea's issues, their fans will accept no excuses for not beating Luton. Pochettino has an in-form Sterling but needs goals. Find them tonight, and Chelsea should kickstart their season.