Has Hiddink turned things around?
Chelsea could not have got off to a much worse start to their title defence this season as any hope of a repeat success in the Premier League was quickly washed away.
At Christmas, the Blues found themselves closer to the bottom of the table than the top four. This led to the exit of club legend Jose Mourinho, who was eventually sacked by owner Roman Abramovich, despite large sections of Chelsea’s fan base being against the decision.
Just like he did in his first spell at Stamford Bridge in 2009, Guus Hiddink has come into Chelsea and been able to pick up the pieces that were left with a broken team. It is expected that the Dutchman will leave at the end of the season when a permanent appointment will be made. Rumours are suggesting Italy national team manager Antonio Conte is in the driving seat to get the job.
Under Hiddink, Chelsea are now on course for a top-10 finish in the Premier League. This is a long way short of the target of defending their title at the start of the campaign, however, given their results in the first half of the season, they have done well to turn their form around.
The best chance Chelsea have of some silverware this season looks to be with the FA Cup after progressing through to the quarter-finals of the competition, with a last eight tie with Everton to look forward to at Goodison Park. They were comfortable 5-1 winners at home to Manchester City in the last round, although the visitors did field an inexperienced team due to the timing of the game on a late Sunday afternoon just days before a Champions League tie in Kiev.
At the start of March, Chelsea could be backed at 3/1 in the FA Cup betting ahead of the quarter-final fixtures. If successful, it will be the second time Hiddink has won the FA Cup at Chelsea as he did so in the 2009 when his side beat Everton 2-1 at Wembley.
With a top-four finish now out of the question, Chelsea’s only way of qualifying for Champions League football next season will be to win the 2015/16 competition as they would then get the opportunity to defend their trophy.
In order to keep that hope alive, Chelsea will have to overcome a 2-1 deficit against PSG at Stamford Bridge in the second leg of their last 16 encounter. The Blues went out to the French champions last season in extra-time following a tight contest.
If the Blues are to have any hope of silverware, Hiddink will need his big players in his squad to deliver. Eden Hazard has been criticised for his form and it has not improved much since the change of management.
Encouragingly for Chelsea fans, though, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas are both putting in solid performances which are similar to those seen from them last season in their title winning campaign.