Hiddink wins dressing room

LONDON — Guus Hiddink believes Chelsea’s 3-0 victory at Crystal Palace proves his players have started to heed his demands to put in the hard work needed to restore their tarnished reputation.

Chelsea also still have a chance of finishing in the Premier League top four and securing Champions League football at the end of the season, interim manager Hiddink has said. After a pair of draws in his opening two matches since taking over as Chelsea interim manager, Hiddink at last secured his first win thanks to goals from Oscar, Willian and Diego Costa at rain-lashed Selhurst Park on Sunday.

The confident and composed way Chelsea subdued a tricky opponent in difficult conditions was a rare highlight in a torrid season for the troubled English Premier League soccer champions, who moved six points clear of the relegation zone after their biggest league win of the campaign.

Hiddink faced a difficult task when he arrived at Stamford Bridge last month as a short-term replacement for the sacked Jose Mourinho.

Confidence was low among a squad who had grown so unhappy with Mourinho that they were no longer putting in the effort required to maintain their position as one of the league’s superpowers.

But the upbeat Hiddink has quickly won over his players, his presence helping revive their appetite for the game and convince them to raise their work rate.

The result was clear to see as Chelsea brushed aside a Palace team that defeated them earlier this season to extend their unbeaten run to four matches since Mourinho departed.

“We’ve started working and if the team is not doing well through a long period then you have to look for security and that’s why we emphasised on good, hard work, tactically and a defensive way,” Hiddink said.

“We don’t need to add a lot of quality of players: they are blessed by nature with big quality. But they have to know when things aren’t going as wished that we have to look for causes and that’s why we started working.

“The very talented players, they start working also, to invest in the dirty work and not just the beautiful game they can play, because this league is very demanding.

“And if you think you can do it just on your quality, what’s more given by talent than nature, then this league will kill you.”

The win over Crystal Palace moved Chelsea up to 14th place in the table and 13 points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and Hiddink refused to write off his side’s chances of finishing in the top four although he admitted it would be “difficult”.

“Everyone knows there’s a lot of quality but sometimes a team which has just become champions has a tendency to become complacent,” the Dutchman said.

“When I started, we said mathematically when we could get to a Champions League position it would be lovely. It’s difficult because this league has become so strong. Everyone can win from everyone, which means it’s very difficult to get there. — AFP.

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