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Chelsea rewarded for 'patience' as Europe beckons after late-season surge

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino said the club is being rewarded for its patience after Wednesday night's Premier League win over Brighton moved the Blues to the brink of European qualification.

Chelsea sealed their fourth successive victory, 2-1 at Brighton's Amex Stadium, following a superb Cole Palmer header and Chris Nkunku's low finish.

It should have been much more comfortable for the visitors, but a needless late red card shown to captain Reece James opened the door for Brighton, who scored through Danny Welbeck in injury time and continued to push late for an equaliser.

The victory continues a remarkable late surge from Chelsea, who moved up to sixth following Manchester United's 3-2 win over Newcastle. Only four games ago, Chelsea were in ninth, 12 points behind fifth-placed Tottenham, yet a victory on the final day combined with a defeat for Spurs will move the Blues up to fifth.

If Chelsea avoid defeat to Bournemouth on Sunday, they are guaranteed European football next season, although the outcome of the FA Cup final will depend on which competition. Victory for Manchester City will secure a Europa League place, but a win for United will see the Blues drop into the Europa Conference League.

Whatever the outcome, it will still mark a fine revival masterminded by Pochettino, who has faced criticism throughout his troubled first season in charge.

Amid calls for his sacking, Pochettino even hinted recently that he could quit at the end of the season and said it wouldn't be the "end of the world" if he was dismissed by chairman Todd Boehly.

But the Argentine was in a more buoyant mood after Chelsea closed in on Europe, praising the club's hierarchy for sticking with their plan.

"We have improved results and