Chelsea are ‘now in transition’, says Guus Hiddink after Paris Saint-Germain knock Blues out of Champions League
The west Londoners are well adrift of qualifying through the Premier League – the Blues are tenth, ten points behind fourth-placed Manchester City with nine games remaining – less than a year after winning the title.
“Chelsea is now in a transition period,” said Hiddink, who has restored stability following a turbulent start to the season under Jose Mourinho.
“They have to see how to go on and try to regain the lost terrain where Chelsea used to be. Chelsea must consider its short(-term) future, how to handle this.”
Next season appears likely to be Chelsea’s first without Champions League football under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, who took over in 2003.
Their most recent season without top-level European competition was in 2002-03, when they played in the UEFA Cup.
Chelsea’s only losses under Hiddink have been inflicted by PSG, who advanced to the quarter-finals for a fourth straight season and a second in a row at the expense of the Blues.
Away goals had separated the sides in the last two seasons – Chelsea won the quarter-final tie in 2014, but were defeated at the last-16 stage in 2015 – and John Obi Mikel’s strike on February 16 at Parc des Princes gave Chelsea a fighting chance.
The performance of Diego Costa did, too. He cancelled out Adrien Rabiot’s opener before departing injured after an hour. And seven minutes later Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck in a cathartic moment for the Sweden striker, who missed the 2014 tie through injury and called Chelsea’s players “babies” following his sending off 12 months ago.
Eden Hazard was again disappointing and he was booed by a handful of home supporters as he was replaced 13 minutes from time, nursing a hip injury which makes him a doubt for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Everton.
“We’ll see if there’s big damage tomorrow,” said Hiddink, talking about both Costa and Hazard.
“Diego was desperate to play today, although not 100 per cent fit. I don’t know if that became worse. I don’t know if it’s worse than before the Stoke game (which Costa missed as a precaution).”