LONDON, April 25 – Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink has admitted that second place in the Premier League is now his target after a midweek draw with Everton left his temporary charges six points adrift of leaders Manchester United.The setback had led many to assume that Chelsea would rest key players for Saturday’s trip to West Ham with one eye on next week’s Champions League semi-final first leg in Barcelona.
But Hiddink suggested otherwise.
"We have to take the league seriously," the Dutchman said.
"We have to be in the first few spots for qualification for the Champions League next year. We have to go for second or third place at least, so we have to take this game very seriously.
"As we said before, the pressure was always on Liverpool and us not to drop points, which we did. So, normally, we cannot go for the title. We have a very important game coming up on Tuesday, but also tomorrow.
"Man Utd had a difficult time dropping points a few weeks ago, but their game in hand is a luxury. They’ll use that. If you’re in the driver’s seat, and you are used to being there, then you are the favourite. They are favourites. When I’m favourite, normally I win."
Hiddink would not be drawn on whether Gianfranco Zola, the former Chelsea favourite who has impressed as West Ham boss, would be a good candidate to take over from him next season.
"I see potential," said Hiddink. "I haven’t seen the younger managers working, but I see some guys who, when you have a conversation with them or they appear on television, come across very intelligently.
"Zola is one of the guys who can make this change to being a manager. But I also see some English managers.
"Everyone has to start at high levels sometimes. One can need 500 games and might not feel he’s suited for that job. Another one less.
"I haven’t seen him (Zola) working. I see him from the outside. He’s a very intelligent man. He was a brilliant footballer, a very intelligent man and player, and I think he likes to learn a lot still. But I cannot judge whether he’s capable of managing Chelsea now."
Hiddink may opt to have a look at young England defender Michael Mancienne at left-back on Saturday. Ashley Cole is suspended for the Barcelona match and Mancienne is a candidate for the unenviable task of marking Lionel Messi.
"We have some options," said Hiddink. "Everyone knows that, in the squad, we don’t have double natural coverage for the left-back position, so we have to improvise.
"We have some candidates. It’s obvious that, in the West Ham game, we use this option."