Hiddink steers Blues right way up

LONDON • Guus Hiddink will attempt to maintain Chelsea's improved form at Southampton today, after a week in which Antonio Conte appeared to move close to becoming the Dutchman's successor.

Chelsea remain unbeaten in domestic competition since Hiddink was installed in December - a 12-game run that has taken the Blues into the FA Cup quarter-finals and helped them move closer to mid-table in the Premier League.

The Dutchman has brought much-needed stability, with the only blemish being the last-16 first-leg Champions League defeat at Paris Saint-Germain.

Reports this week suggest Italy coach Conte has emerged as the front-runner to take charge of the Blues next season.

Whether or not he takes over a club on the up hinges on Hiddink continuing to bring the best out of his team, who have recently started to show the league title-winning form they had last year.

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman, who played under Hiddink at PSV, believes his former manager was the ideal appointment after Jose Mourinho.

"He was the right man at the right moment and the players are looking more comfortable and he has given them confidence," he said.

Hiddink admits his priorities lie with the FA Cup and Champions League, having effectively written off Chelsea's hopes of finishing in the top four in the Premier League.

They remain in 12th place with their opponents in sixth. Southampton's target is to return to the Europa League but Koeman admits he has yet to discuss his future with the club's board.

"I'm still in my second season, it's too early to talk about the future," he said. "Let me first finish this season and try and continue what we are doing until now."

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SOUTHAMPTON V CHELSEA
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2016, with the headline 'Hiddink steers Blues right way up'. Print Edition | Subscribe