Guus Hiddink has set a remarkable challenge for his revived Chelsea squad to qualify for Europe through the Premier League. The Blues have now climbed into the top half of the league table for the first time in his second spell with a controversial 2-1 victory over Norwich.
Chelsea were actually just a point of the relegation zone when the veteran Dutchman took charge in December.
However, the fastest Premier League goal of this season from Kenedy and a controversial second one from Diego Costa saw the once struggling team move up to eighth, and only five points from an unlikely European berth.
It was Chelsea’s first hat-trick of league wins this frustrating season. While Norwich sadly slipped into the bottom three, Hiddink’s rejuvenated side are right now unbeaten in 11 Premier League appearances.
With their impressive attacking play in the first half and solid defending after the break, it looked like watching the old Chelsea grind out a perfect result.
“We’re happy,” said the Dutchman. “It’s not Chelsea standard to be happy to be out of the relegation zone, and sit back and relax a bit.
“We have to set new targets now with the ambition of Chelsea in the direction of Europe.
“We have a tight schedule – Stoke, PSG, Everton – and the squad is not very, very broad, so we hope everyone is on board.
“If everyone is available, we’d like to go as high as possible towards the European spots.”
Despite their disastrous beginning to the season, the Blues have maintained the hope of emulating 2012’s famous triumphs, however, unlikely that would be, after recording a reputable result in Paris in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 ties.
Chelsea’s period of revived hope is perfectly symbolized by Diego Costa’s reoccurrence to goal-scoring stint. The controversial Spaniard’s recent form has been really impressive, to a degree reminiscent of the remarkable performances he produced in the previous season.
Qualification for the Europa League now looks a practical possibility for Chelsea. Winning the FA Cup would also secure Europa League participation. The prospect of Champions League football remains not an impossible one though it would be highly difficult to replicate the spirited heroics of 2012. In simple terms, European Football is feasible.
However, a club of Chelsea’s magnitude should obviously be in the pursuit of more distinguished achievements than the Europa League, particularly given the extent of the club’s resources. But in the club’s worst ever season under Roman Abramovich’s ownership, Europa League qualification would prove a moderate success and involvement in the Europa League could be exceedingly advantageous for the club.