Chelsea’s interim manager, Guus Hiddink, has admitted that the threat of relegation is a very real one for the defending Premier League champions.
Despite remaining unbeaten since the Dutchman took over from the departed Jose Mourinho in December, Chelsea remain closer to the relegation zone than to the top four. They are six points away from Sunderland who occupy the last relegation spot, whilst they are twelve points away from Tottenham in fourth.
The next five fixtures for the Blues are Everton at Stamford Bridge, Arsenal at The Emirates, Watford away, Man United at home and Newcastle also at the Bridge. Looking slightly more short-term Hiddink said, “We have two difficult games coming up. If you don’t gather points there, you don’t know what the others do. The Premier League can surprise you”.
There has been a slight improvement in the club’s fortunes since the departure of the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’, with Chelsea sitting just one point above the relegation zone when the club’s owner, Roman Abramovich, decided to sack the Portuguese manager for the second time.
Hiddink said, “There are 12 points difference to fourth place, which is Tottenham. We all like to look forward and to the top of the table, but also don’t be unrealistic – you’re six points off the line of relegation. That’s also a fact. We have to work hard and be very concentrated and gather our points to step up. [Relegation?] It’s reality.
The London club are still going to be without Eden Hazard and Radamel Falcao for the visit of Everton, whilst Pedro’s position could be under threat after a decidedly poor display against West Brom during the week.
Everton could welcome back Tom Cleverly who has been out with an ankle injury but Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy will not be able to turn out for the Merseysiders who won the reverse fixture 3-1 in September.
Speaking ahead of the match Everton’s manager, Roberto Martinez, said, “Chelsea are a team full of winning footballers. They won the league so the quality is there. They have players that can produce magic. They have had a couple of very impressive performances under Guus Hiddink, and have shown plenty of fight”.