Football: Hiddink sets his sights on Blues’ European future

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink during a press conference.
Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink during a press conference. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Guus Hiddink has set Chelsea the target of overtaking Manchester United by the end of the Premier League campaign.

Winning the Champions League and the FA Cup are the priorities for last season's champions, who moved into the top half of the table for the first time since the opening week of the season with a 2-1 win at Norwich City on Tuesday. But the Blues' interim manager is also keen on the club finishing in the European places.

United were five points ahead of Chelsea in fifth place before their league match against Watford yesterday. Fifth spot will qualify a team for the Europa League, as will winning the FA Cup.

"Are they catchable?" said Hiddink when asked about United. "Well, first of all, we're happy. It's not Chelsea's standard to be happy to be out of the relegation zone, and sit back and relax a bit.

"We have to set new targets now with the ambition of Chelsea in the direction of Europe."

Chelsea took the lead at Norwich after just 39 seconds when Kenedy scored the fastest goal of the season so far. Diego Costa doubled the lead in first-half stoppage time, albeit from an offside position. That gave them enough of a cushion to repel a spirited fightback from Norwich, who saw Nathan Redmond pull one back.

Hiddink made it clear he was happy with the result but the performance could have been better.

"We have now won a few games in a row, which gives satisfaction of course," said the Dutchman, after his side won three straight league games for the first time since April. "But I think we were a bit sloppy in the finishing in the first half... We did in the end, but we should have killed it off already by then."

The Canaries, who dropped into the bottom three, have now taken just one point from a possible 24.

Norwich manager Alex Neil was frustrated that the linesman did not spot that Costa was offside for the second goal.

"I made them aware that he'd got it wrong at half-time," he said. "It happens. I won't lambast him for that. Of course we're disappointed and frustrated, but there we are."

Costa has now scored 10 times in his last 13 appearances in all competitions. His upturn in form comes at a vital time for Chelsea. The Blues will seek to overturn a 1-2 deficit against Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League last 16 return leg and see off Everton in the FA Cup quarter-finals next week.

Before that, they will host Stoke in the league on Saturday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2016, with the headline 'Hiddink's emphasis on Blues' European future'. Print Edition | Subscribe