Chelsea host Blackburn Rovers in their final home match of the season today, debuting their new adidas kit and quite probably saying a fond and heartfelt goodbye to interim coach Guus Hiddink, who will return to his coaching duties with the Russian national side at the conclusion of the season.
The Blues moved on from the debacle that was the second leg of the Champions League semi final, by stuffing Arsenal 4-1 at The Emirates. Nicolas Anelka, a frontrunner in the race for the Premier League golden boot, netted a 25 yard scorcher, after Alex’s opener and before Kolo Toure’s own goal and Florent Malouda’s easy finish.
It has been a mixed season to say the least, our excellent away record severely let down by our poor early season form at Stamford Bridge. Our famed record of unbeaten matches at home was ended by Liverpool during Luiz Felipe Scolari’s tenure, a stark reflection of his lack of success as Chelsea manager, prior to his mid-season dismissal.
That dismissal though, saw Guus Hiddink, widely acknowledged as one of the premier managers in the world, take over on a strictly interim basis. He started with a win against an extremely competitive Aston Villa side, and in 18 matches since, the Blues have tasted just one defeat, away at Tottenham Hotspur. Hiddink has led Chelsea to the FA Cup Final, and were it not for a shambolic display of officiating by Mr Ovrebo at Stamford Bridge a week and a half ago, Hiddink would have led the Blues to another Champions League Final.
The win at Arsenal last week saw Chelsea wrap up third place in the league, and thus we will play Champions League football again next season. Such a goal however, looked in jeopardy at the conclusion of Scolari’s tenure. It was under the likeable Brazilian that Chelsea played Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park, coming away with a 2-0 victory, thanks to a double from Nicolas Anelka, at the time in red hot early season form. That match was played in a torrential storm in Lancashire, making Paul Robinson’s starring performance all the more impressive in trying conditions for goalkeepers. Cech’s bright orange jersey finally showed its benefit, he being the most (only?) visible player on the pitch.
Alas, today’s match will see the Chelsea fans farewell Hiddink, who has been an incredible hit during his time in charge. However, in typical Hiddink style, the performance will aim to be professional, “without emotion” and clinical, as the Blues look to use this match and the final game against Sunderland to prepare for the Cup Final at Wembley.
Expect a strong lineup on the pitch, as the players aim to retain match sharpness for the Final, as well cement their positions in the side to take on Everton. Ballack and Belletti are in doubt with the flu, though having been rested last week against Arsenal, Ballack will be keen to resume his place in the starting lineup. Anelka and Drogba may well be included together in a front two or three, whilst Bosingwa will again compete with Ivanovic for the right back position. Appearances from youngsters Stoch, Mancienne and Di Santo would be welcomed, though not expected.
Nonetheless, today we pay tribute to Guus Hiddink, a true master of the game and Chelsea’s saving grace in a season of desperate need. He has done an incredible job, and today the fans adulation will be more than clear as we farewell a new Chelsea hero.
Thank you Guus, it’s been a pleasure witnessing your work.