Hiddink seeks solace for Blues amid 'reality' of Europa League

LONDON • Chelsea's interim boss Guus Hiddink has targeted a place in the much-maligned Europa League, as he tries to prevent his team's season from petering out.

The Blues showed that they have not given up on their season, by fighting back for a 2-2 draw on Saturday against West Ham United, who would have moved into the Champions League places with a victory.

Cesc Fabregas equalised late in each half after goals from Manuel Lanzini and Andy Carroll, in a match that should have mattered less to Chelsea than the Hammers.

Hiddink's men went out of the Champions League to Paris Saint-Germain and lost in the FA Cup quarter-finals to Everton in their two previous matches.

So although the Dutchman was pleased that his team showed the desire to battle back - and maintain his own unbeaten Premier League record since returning to the club in December - he wants an improvement over the final matches.

Interim boss Guus Hiddink said he was not in favour of Chelsea avoiding the much-maligned Europa League.

"We have too many draws and if we had more victories we would be knocking on the door of the Champions League as West Ham are doing now, and they deserve it," he said.

Hiddink rejected suggestions that the Europa League is best avoided and that his successor as manager would find it easier to rebuild without the distraction of Thursday evening matches in Uefa's junior club tournament.

"I think in sport you must get the highest position possible. The Europa League might be below the standard of Chelsea but it's reality," he added.

"I'm not in favour of saying 'Please let's not play in the Europa League.' It would be difficult for me to calculate: 'Let's lose that game so we don't go into Europe' or say 'Hey guys, we don't want to go into Europe so let's lose this game'."

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic was happy with what their performance promised for the rest of the season.

"It is great when you play really good and play a 2-2 at Stamford Bridge, home of the champions, that shows that we are moving in a very good direction.

"We could have two points more, we could be above Man City, put the pressure on them, we could make a gap on the teams below us and we deserved it," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2016, with the headline 'Hiddink seeks solace for Blues amid 'reality' of Europa League'. Print Edition | Subscribe