LONDON • Thibaut Courtois says he and his Chelsea team-mates are playing for their futures at the English Premier League football club between now and the end of the season, and believes a top-four finish and success in the FA Cup and Champions League are still within their grasp.
Chelsea maintained their unbeaten run under Guus Hiddink with Sunday's 3-0 victory at Crystal Palace, showing the sort of conviction so glaringly absent under Jose Mourinho earlier in the season, to move to 14th in the Premier League table.
The nine defeats in their opening 16 Premier League matches - a torrid run that cost Mourinho his job - mean that they remain 13 points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur but Hiddink, in charge until the end of the season, still believes a top-four finish is possible.
Courtois has admitted that, with a new permanent manager to be appointed in the summer who could implement a wholesale overhaul, the players' minds have been focused.
"Yes, of course," said the Belgium goalkeeper, when asked if the team were playing for their futures.
A CHANGE IN METHODS
The training is different. Sometimes it's his approach in how he wants us to train, maybe sometimes it's a bit more tactical or a bit less.''
THIBAUT COURTOIS, on the training methods of Guus Hiddink
"We had team meetings where we said the same, 'OK, the manager has gone but we are responsible as well - that we need to pick up our level because we are not playing good enough for a Chelsea player.' Now we are stepping up our game and that's a good way.
"Obviously if you win the FA Cup or Champions League, it will still be a positive season, and also if we end up in the top four or top six."
While Chelsea missed out on the Premier League title during Hiddink's first interim spell in 2009, they did lift the FA Cup under him.
They begin their campaign against third-tier Scunthorpe on Sunday before back-to-back home league matches against West Bromwich and Everton.
Three victories would back Courtois' claim that Chelsea's season is not yet a lost cause, and the Belgian revealed how Hiddink's training methods have helped the team's mini-revival.
"The training is different. Sometimes it's his approach in how he wants us to train, maybe sometimes it's a bit more tactical or a bit less," he said.
"Sometimes he is more outside of training, more observing.
"He leaves training to Steve Holland and Eddie (Newton) and he just puts in when he thinks, 'I need to explain this to the team or that to the team.' When he explains, he explains it well."