Anyone who was regularly backing Chelsea in Premier League matches when online sports betting wouldn’t have had much to show for their faith in the Blues in the opening half of this season.
In fairness, nobody could have anticipated quite how disastrously Chelsea’s title defence would go in those first few months of the campaign and certainly not the bookies, who had Chelsea as pre-season favourites for the Premier League.
Thankfully, things have picked up considerably since the return of Guus Hiddink. Slowly and somewhat unconvincingly at first perhaps, but Chelsea are now the form team in the top-flight, in the knock-out stages of the Champions League, the last eight of the FA Cup and, whisper it quietly, still in with a remote chance of securing a top-four Premier League finish. They are now down as low as 10/1 in places after the round of midweek matches in which they won at Norwich City.
The latter prospect still remains highly unlikely of course, but Chelsea’s improved form has coincided with many of the teams above them struggling to string any decent results together. It’s been a strange old season in the English Premier League and nothing can be taken for granted, but Chelsea will probably run out of fixtures before they can claim Champions League qualification via the league. Europa League qualification via the Premier League now looks entirely plausible though.
Not only has Hiddink quietly overseen an upturn in results and performances, but he’s also given opportunities to the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Kenedy, Bertrand Traore and Baba Rahman. At long last Chelsea’s much-vaunted youth set-up is getting some meaningful first-team recognition.
According to reports, it now appears that current Italian national team coach Antonio Conte will succeed Hiddink over the summer. Should he do so, he will certainly inherit a squad in far better shape than one might have predicted just a couple of months back.
Yes, Eden Hazard is (for whatever reason) but a shadow of the player he was last season and he seems likely to move on in the summer. A Chelsea squad without John Terry will also take some getting used to, but the rebuilding job might not be quite as extensive as it initially looked.
No doubt there will be a number of changes to playing personnel over the summer, but Hiddink has shown that there isn’t a great deal wrong with the squad as it is. If a few of those currently out on loan are also brought back into the fold and given a chance, there really shouldn’t be a need for wholesale change.
As for Hiddink, if the rumours are to be believed it now seems that he may be kept on in an advisory role by Roman Abramovich. Few would argue with that.
There are plenty of big games to come for Chelsea and Hiddink over the remainder of the current campaign and, as with any major live televised match, you should be able to find enhanced odds on a Chelsea victory on all of them. It might be a way to recover some of those early season losses.