Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink praised his side’s 3-0 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park over the weekend, before suggesting that the result was proof that the Blues still have what it takes to make the top four this season.
The defending Premier League champions are paying the price for a terrible start to the season under their former manager Jose Mourinho. The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ oversaw an incredible nine losses, including four at Stamford Bridge, before he was sacked by the club’s owner Roman Abramovich. He was replaced by Hiddink on an interim basis last month.
Since the Dutchman’s arrival the Blues have enjoyed something of a revival, being unbeaten in their last four matches with two wins and two draws. The poor opening they suffered at the start of the campaign means that they sit thirteen points behind Tottenham who are in fourth place.
With eighteen league games still to play, though, Hiddink believes Chelsea still have a chance of challenging for a Champion’s League place. He said, “It’s difficult because this league has become so strong; everyone can win from everyone, It’s very difficult to get there. It’s possible but there’s a long way to go”.
Though the new manager’s confidence will be music to the ear’s of Chelsea’s fans, it does seem a touch unrealistic. The highest any club has ever finished in the Premier League era when they’ve had 20 points or less from 19 games is eighth. Even in this topsy-turvy season when anything seems possible that would be an impressive return from the 69 year old.
The win over Crystal Palace moved Chelsea up to fourteenth in the league and six points clear of the relegation zone. It also capped their longest unbeaten run of the season. The former Netherlands manager feels that the Blues have to regain their mental superiority, saying, “We have to get back to thinking why we were champions” and suggesting that the win was ‘desperately needed’.
Some critics of the club have asked why exactly the players have been able to put in such consistent performances now that Jose Mourinho has left when they seemed incapable of doing it when he was there. John Terry, the club captain, said that the players ‘let everybody down’. The 35 year old central defender said, “It’s unfortunate what’s happened. We are where we are, and slowly climbing the Premier League table”.
The former England captain also believes that Hiddink has helped the club to ‘pick things up’ since his arrival as interim manager, something he also did in 2009 when Luis Felipe Scolari was sacked. Speaking about the team’s performance against their London rivals Palace John Terry said, “That was the Chelsea of last year. Overall, as well as the goals, it was different class”.
As the Blues got knocked out of the League Cup when under Jose Mourinho’s leadership, they now have to wait until Sunday to play again and see if they are able to maintain their good momentum. Chelsea will host Scunthorpe in the FA Cup, the competition that Hiddink won with the club during his last temporary spell in 2009.