News24

Chelsea's stars want Hiddink

2009-03-13 15:24

London -  The clamor for Guus Hiddink to become Chelsea's full time manager will get even louder if the Blues cut Manchester United's Premier League lead to four points on Sunday.

With seven to make up on United in the title race, Chelsea hosts Manchester City, a team with one of the worst away records and with the distraction of a strong run in the UEFA Cup.

United faces a tough game on Saturday against third-place Liverpool, which is level on points with Chelsea, and the Blues would want that game at Old Trafford to be a draw so they can gain two points on them both.

But a victory over City combined with a United loss at home to Anfield would liven up the title race and increase the call for Hiddink to give up his job as coach of Russia's national team and move full time to Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea has revived since Hiddink's arrival as temporary manager a month ago in place of the fired Luiz Felipe Scolari. Five league and cup victories in a row under the Dutch coach was followed on Tuesday by a 2-2 draw at Juventus which put the team into the quarterfinal of the Champions League.

"I would love for him to say he is staying for three years," said midfielder Michael Ballack. "Everybody in the club and around the club can feel he is a great manager and, even in a short time, he has had a big influence on the team."

Striker Didier Drogba's form has improved since Hiddink arrived and Chelsea's midfield has been strengthened by Michael Essien's return from a six-month injury layoff.

City is the Premier League's lone survivor in the UEFA Cup and comes off an encouraging 2-0 victory over Danish club Aalborg on Thursday. Manager Mark Hughes, whose team has only one victory in 14 away games in the Premier League, wants his players to feed off that result when it goes to Chelsea.

"We are confident but you need that when you are facing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge," Hughes said. "It is going to be a big test for us. We met them earlier in the season and maybe we weren't quite up to it but we are a different side now. ... They have improved and they got a good result in midweek. They have had a good week, but then again so have we, and we want to finish it in the right manner."

Man United and Liverpool also captured impressive results to reach the last eight of the Champions League although the performance of Rafa Benitez' team was far better.

Liverpool outplayed Real Madrid 4-0 at Anfield on Wednesday with yet another top quality performance from captain Steven Gerrard, who was described by retired great Zinedine Zidane on Friday as the world's best player.

"Is he the best in the world? He might not get the attention of (Lionel) Messi and (Cristiano) Ronaldo but yes, I think he just might be," said Zidane, who won the Champions League with Real Madrid. "He has great passing ability, can tackle and scores goals, but most importantly he gives the players around him confidence and belief. You can't learn that. Players like him are just born with that presence."

United beat Italian champion and Serie A leader Inter Milan 2-0 on Tuesday although Inter went close to scoring several times and manager Alex Ferguson wants a better performance against Liverpool.

Behind the only three clubs who can realistically win the title is another mini competition for places in next season's Champions League.

Aston Villa holds fourth place and hosts Tottenham on Sunday while fifth-place Arsenal welcomes Blackburn on Saturday. Everton, seven points behind Villa, is on an impressive run of form and should collect three points at home to Stoke.

Saturday's other games are Bolton-Fulham, Hull-Newcastle, Middlesbrough-Portsmouth and Sunderland-Wigan. On Monday, West Ham hosts last place West Bromwich Albion which now looks very likely to return to the League Championship.

AP