Hiddink eyes FA Cup glory with Chelsea again

LONDON • With Chelsea's chances of success in the Premier League ruined by their miserable first half of the season, Guus Hiddink, who took charge after Jose Mourinho was sacked, has circled the dates of the FA Cup and Champions League finals in his diary.

The Dutchman memorably ended his first spell as Chelsea's interim manager by winning the 2009 FA Cup final against Everton and then flouted Wembley regulations by smoking a cigar during post-match celebrations in the dressing room.

Ahead of third-tier Scunthorpe United's visit to Stamford Bridge for today's third-round FA Cup tie, Hiddink admitted that he would relish a similar scenario in May.

"Fourth place in the Premier League is difficult," he said. "Then there are two targets left and one is the FA Cup. It's a big target for this group of players."

On paper, Scunthorpe, 15th in League One, should pose little threat. But it was only last year that Chelsea suffered a humiliating FA Cup fourth-round exit against third-tier Bradford at the Bridge.

Given Chelsea's malaise over the last few months, the minnows will fancy their chances of causing an upset in their meeting with the Blues. They last met in another FA Cup third-round tie 11 years ago that ended in a 3-1 win for the Premier League club.

Since Mourinho's departure, Chelsea have shown signs of improvement. But Hiddink knows there is still plenty of work to do, largely in calming the troubled waters caused by the disintegration of Mourinho's relationship with several stars.

The sight of Diego Costa and Oscar having to be separated by team-mates after a training-ground bust-up this week was hardly encouraging on that front, although the manager played down attempts to interpret the row as a sign of continued turmoil.

Hiddink is more focused on dealing with the injury problems that will deprive him of the services of Belgium playmaker Eden Hazard, as well as strikers Radamel Falcao and Loic Remy, against Scunthorpe. "I'm worried about his situation. But in the upcoming games we have to show what we're capable of," he said.

Scunthorpe captain Stephen Dawson conceded that the chance of Mark Robins' men springing a surprise is slim.

"I think so, if you look at their run now and the way they are playing," he said. "It'll be very difficult, we're under no illusions. We all know we are the underdogs."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CHELSEA V SCUNTHORPE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 10, 2016, with the headline 'Hiddink eyes FA Cup glory with Chelsea again'. Print Edition | Subscribe