Five Reasons Chelsea Can Claim A Champions League Place
Chelsea have finally made it out of the bottom half of the Premier League, after beating Norwich City 2-1 at Carrow Road last night.
And no sooner than they had reached the heady heights of eighth, interim manager Guus Hiddink claimed his side can still qualify for Europe – and the fans started to dream of a sensational top four placed finish.
At one point it looked impossible, as Jose Mourinho led the Chelsea to a potental relegation battle before Roman Abramovich wielded the axe, but the Blues are in a good position to qualify for next season’s Thursday night football. Wednesdays not so much.
Here’s five reasons why Chelsea might not have to go a season without European competition:
Diego Costa Is Back In Form
You almost forget that when he’s not being an absolute bastard, Costa is one of the best strikers in the Premier League.
He clearly clashed with Mourinho – remember the bib throwing – and as soon as the former Real Madrid boss left, Costa returned to the kind of form that saw him net 20 goals in his first season in England.
Since Hiddink took over, Costa has scored ten times in 14 games and has been involved in more goals than any other Premier League player during 2016.
Chelsea look a different side with him on top form and if it continues, the former Atletico Madrid striker could be the one to fire the Blues back into Europe.
John Obi Mikel Is Back From The Dead
One of Hiddink’s main changes when he returned to Stamford Bridge was to restore Mikel back into the team.
The Nigerian was once a key part of Chelsea but in recent years, many have almost forgot that the 28-year-old (seriously, he’s still only 28) still played for the reigning champions.
But since Hiddink took over in his second temporary stint as manager, Mikel has become an important part of the squad again, and even popped up with a rare goal to keep their Champions League hopes alive.
Since coming back into the team, Chelsea have looked more solid and have been harder to break down, allowing the likes of Willian and Costa to focus on winning games at the other end.
They Have Willian
Despite Chelsea being woeful for the most part of the season, Brazilian winger Willian has been brilliant.
At one point, had it not been for his goals, the Blues would have been in the relegation zone.
His workrate has been central to Chelsea’s improved fortunes and his 10 goals from midfield have been key to their revival.
All he has to do now is teach Eden Hazard how to control a match like he does and they’re in business.
Their Run In
It’s not a case of Chelsea having an easy run in, but one that is tailor made for a late push for Europe.
In the final 10 games, the Blues face five top half teams, meaning that if they keep winning like they have been lately, they could easily gatecrash what looked like a concluded race.
They play Stoke and West Ham in their next two games and should they win them, they’ll be breathing down the necks of Southampton and Manchester United in the race for fifth.
Things could get interesting quickly…
In terms of their change in fortunes, no one has made a bigger impact than the man in charge.
Hiddink provided a calming influence in the midst of a storm – one that had players clashing with authority and threatening to sink the club.
Apparently, there’s no chance of Hiddink staying on beyond the end of this season, but Chelsea would be wise to do all they can to persuade him to stay.
No one has beaten Chelsea in the Premier League since Hiddink took the reigns and nor do they look like doing, but the Dutchman will leave at the end of the season and it’s up to Roman Abramovich to pick the right replacement.