Chelsea FC vs Manchester City - Hiddink feels empty and says Conte faces challenge

Posted Saturday, April 16, 2016 by PA

Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink is feeling empty and admits Antonio Conte faces a challenge to steer the Blues back into the Premier League's top four after a chastening season.

Last season's champions play Manchester City on Saturday in a fixture many predicted could be decisive in the Premier League title fight. Yet it sees 10th versus fourth at Stamford Bridge.

City are in the Champions League semi-finals and won the Capital One Cup, but are out of title contention. Their season can be considered a success compared to Chelsea's.

Conte will become the permanent successor to Jose Mourinho after this summer's European Championships, but with broadcast billions increasing the competition in the Premier League, Hiddink expects the Italian will have his work cut out.

"There are no guarantees whatsoever," Hiddink said.

"The clubs will have more money to spend next year, which means the league will be even more competitive, which is very nice for everyone, except for those who have been used to being at the top for many years.

"We're used to fighting for something and nothing is at stake at this moment.

"That's strange. You're a little bit empty because there's no silverware to go for."

Hiddink refused to blame Mourinho for Chelsea's season unravelling, but the Dutchman has restored stability after his appointment for a second caretaker spell in December.

The Blues' defeat at Swansea last week was their first in the league in Hiddink's 15 matches and he wants the players to show "what they are capable of", beginning against City.

Captain John Terry (Achilles), striker Loic Remy (groin) and playmaker Eden Hazard (hip/groin) are again out.

Hazard was last season's PFA Players' Player of the Year, but has failed to net in the league this term.

The Belgian is nearing a return after training with the first team this week, but will not be considered to face City.

Hiddink attributed the "alarming", "drastic fall" in form of the playmaker to injuries.

"I was racking my head also 'what can I do to get him back on track?'" he added.

"He fell too much into injuries and had difficulties to come back and get out of that."

Striker Diego Costa is available following his three-game suspension.

Hiddink added: "He didn't (take a break). He was working very hard, also individually when we were on the road. He's very eager to play."

Willian (calf), Nemanja Matic (bruised leg) and Gary Cahill (hip) are available again and Hiddink is likely to make some changes following the loss at Swansea, when Alexandre Pato and Matt Miazga were among the starters.

Kevin De Bruyne is not out to make a point against former club Chelsea this weekend, according to City manager Manuel Pellegrini.

The Belgian forward, sold by Chelsea in 2014, has made a big impact since his club record B£54million move to the Etihad Stadium last summer.

The 24-year-old has scored 15 times for City, including three in four appearances since returning from a two-month lay-off with a knee injury earlier this month.

That he is now one of City's most influential players - and he scored a memorable winner in City's Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain in midweek - is a far cry from his struggles at Stamford Bridge.

De Bruyne failed to make an impression in two years at the London club and was loaned out to Werder Bremen before being allowed to join to Wolfsburg, where his career ignited, by then manager Jose Mourinho.

Pellegrini said: "I think Kevin is a very professional player that tries to play very well in every game and tries to be at the top of the table in every competition with Manchester City. I think that is his only feelings."

Pellegrini believes De Bruyne has the potential to become one of the best players in the world.

He said: "He is a very young player. It depends how he improves in the next year but he is a player that kicks the ball very well and he gets goals, and for me, a player that gets goals is the most important thing.

"I think we will see Kevin improve in every season here in the next few years in England."

City return to Premier League action after the exhilaration of their victory over PSG and with the prospect of a semi-final against Real Madrid to look forward to.

Pellegrini wants his players to put Europe to the back of the mind to focus on the task of picking up points. City, in fourth, have not yet seen off the challenge of Manchester United and West Ham to secure Champions League football for next season, while third-placed Arsenal are still in range.

Pellegrini said: "We now have three games of the Premier League before we continue in the Champions League. It is a very important nine points to try to have a spot for the Champions League next year.

"The target is to try to add as many points from now until the end of the season. The important thing is it depends on us what we do to be in the third or fourth position. We cannot talk more about the other two positions because that doesn't just depend on what we do.

"I am not going to prioritise any competition. We don't need to prioritise because we are going to play these three games before we return to the Champions League."



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