Mauricio Pochettino discovers route to Chelsea success amid one-word Reece James admission

Chelsea captain Reece James celebrates

As the sun beamed down on the River Trent, there was very much that end of season feeling in the air. Football in May is brilliant. Whether it is your team competing in a final or trying to jump up the league table in the final games, there is usually excitement in the air.

That was very much the case for Nottingham Forest after Luton Town and Burnley were both beaten in the 3pm kick-offs, all but ensuring Nuno Espirito Santo's side's status in the Premier League for the 2024/25 campaign. Security guards at the City Ground were anticipating a pitch invasion at full-time but the Forest supporters stayed in their seats.

It is not often you see supporters in such jubilant mood after their team have just lost but that was the case for the home fans in Nottingham on Saturday evening. It was an almost-deafening atmosphere when Callum Hudson-Odoi put Forest ahead on 74 minutes. For about six minutes, it looked as if it was going to be the absolute perfect day for the home side.

It would have been if it was not for an electric couple of minutes of football that saw Raheem Sterling equalise and then Nicolas Jackson head Chelsea ahead in front of an ecstatic away end. The goal from Jackson – Chelsea's third and final of the match – was constructed in the perfect fashion from a Blues point of view.

Reece James, who was making his first appearance for Chelsea since December, was only on the pitch a matter of moments before delivering a pinpoint cross to the far post for Jackson to head in. Because of James' situation in the last couple of seasons with injuries, we often forget how ridiculously talented the Chelsea captain is. A welcome reminder.

A fit and healthy James is a weapon that Chelsea can destroy teams with. He is that good. We just have not seen it since Thomas Tuchel was at the club because of injuries to the 24-year-old.

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James will be hoping the surgery he had on his hamstring in December will help solve the long-term issues he has suffered with in the past. If Chelsea can keep their skipper fit for at least the majority of next season, then they will achieve much more than they have this term, where they have been without him for so long.

"Massive," Mauricio Pochettino said in a simple, one-word answer on how important it is to have James available again. "It is unlucky there are only two games ahead and it is one week.

"It is important for him to recover for his feelings and he is such an important player for us. He is our captain. We all love him. Yes, important, and to see whether he will be fit and have a chance of making the Euros [with England]."

It was another example of Chelsea's growing character. The Blues' growing maturity. It is only the second time in Pochettino's reign that the team have recorded three straight victories in the Premier League.

It is the first time since February they have won away from home in the top-flight. And something that is not a coincidence; they are now looking a lot better – in many different ways – with key players returning.

Chelsea used four substitutes on Saturday evening and all of them made some sort of impact. Malo Gusto and Christopher Nkunku entered the pitch on 58 minutes and while neither of them completely changed the game, they were both bright going forward and the Blues looked more dangerous in an attacking sense with the French duo on the pitch.

Next up, Sterling came on with just over 15 minutes of normal time remaining. The 29-year-old made an immediate impact, taking on Ola Aina and slotting the ball into the bottom corner in tremendous fashion.

James was the final of the four subs, with the captain coming on for Conor Gallagher with 10 minutes of normal time remaining. His impact was immediate, too, and turned out to be match-winning. His tweet after the game summed it up: "Are you entertained?".

Yes, Reece, we are entertained. It would be absolutely great if we could continue to be entertained and football is way more entertaining with you on the pitch.