Chelsea’s first game under Guus Hiddink comes on Saturday, as they take on an in-form Watford side at Stamford Bridge. Can the Dutchman kick off his second spell with a win, or will the Hornets carry on their fine run? One thing’s for sure, given all their recent troubles, the Blues can ill afford another slip up.
The first game of the post Jose Mourinho era on Saturday was an impressive win over Sunderland, but it was one that left fans scratching their heads. The players went at it from the off, going 2-0 up after just 13 minutes. While it was a much needed return to form, it felt like a slap in the face to both Mourinho and the fans.
It seemed like these players had been holding back until the manager was gone, and now they are suddenly able to play to their full potential. What’s the alternative to that idea? As great a servant as Steve Holland has been, it’s hard to see him coming up with a tactical tweak that Mourinho didn’t think of. This win had to have come straight from a mentality shift, which justified the fans’ anger during the game.
Expect more anger towards the players who underperformed this week, and more songs in support of Mourinho. Fans will move on in time, but now those wounds are fresh. It could be counterproductive to turn on the players like this, but Blues fans have been through enough managerial turmoil to know how to act during the interim.
Hopefully Hiddink will be more successful and liked than the previous interim coach, as none of this is his fault. He’s simply stepped into an opening bigger than his recent record merits, plus he’s returning to a club of which he has some very fond memories. The big question will be over his ability, is he still as good as the coach the fans begged to stay in 2009? And can he do enough to pull the team up the league, and earn himself a contract beyond May?
To do that, he’ll have to make a good start, but he’s got a tough task ahead. Watford have been simply brilliant of late, winning four on the spin in the league. They’re up to seventh, a point off the top four, a position Chelsea can only dream about. Their strike partnership of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo has been tearing through teams, with 17 goals between them. Again, that’s something the Blues can only dream of having right now.
So, Watford will be coming into this one with nothing to lose and with momentum carrying them very much in the right direction. They could be dangerous, and it will take all of Hiddink’s wit to pull off a result here. While this won’t make or break his second spell, it will be a big indicator of how he’ll handle it.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 3-1