Hiddink wants to take fight to Barcelona
Guus Hiddink has vowed to carry the fight to Barcelona in this week's Champions League semi-finals as he steels himself for his biggest test as Chelsea's interim manager.sports Updated: Apr 26, 2009 18:00 IST
Guus Hiddink has vowed to carry the fight to Barcelona in this week's Champions League semi-finals as he steels himself for his biggest test as Chelsea's interim manager.
The Dutchman believes it would be suicidal to sit back and try to contain the La Liga side's vast array of attacking talents, even though the Blues have the advantage of playing the second leg at Stamford Bridge eight days later.
Instead, he has urged them to pose their own problems against a side whose defence is far from watertight.
"It is a huge clash against the best team in Europe, possibly the world," said Hiddink, after Chelsea's 1-0 victory over West Ham on Saturday.
"But we should not go there and drop back, wait and wait until the storm is coming.
"We must take what is in our team and do some harm as well. That is always our intention in big games. If we wait, we will have problems."
Hiddink didn't learn much from his team's scrappy win at Upton Park on Saturday, although it did underline a few well-known facts.
They are that few sides are more adept than Chelsea at churning out victories, while significantly short of their best, that Frank Lampard is the undisputed heartbeat of the team; and Petr Cech, whose second-half penalty save from Mark Noble preserved the lead, has rebuilt his confidence.
Hiddink refused to even read much into the steady performance delivered by Jose Bosingwa at left-back.
The Portuguese had been redeployed from his favoured right flank to prepare him for the task of subduing Lionel Messi at the Nou Camp, where Ashley Cole is suspended, but West Ham winger Luis Boa Morte hardly stretched him before he was taken off mid-way through the second half.
"It's hard to compare West Ham and Barcelona," Hiddink said, not unreasonably.
"It's hard as Messi is one of the best players in terms of efficiency and the beautiful football he plays. It's a big challenge for Jose but it will be good if he can neutralise him. He's confident."
The same applies to Lampard. The England midfielder has been Chelsea's best performer this season and he was quietly impressive again at West Ham, where he graduated from the academy only to commit the cardinal sin of quitting for Stamford Bridge in 2001.
He was baited with tedious predictability by the home fans but, once again, shrugged off the insults to deliver a stand-out performance.
He also set up the winning goal, charging to the by-line and chipping to the back post, where Salomon Kalou poked home, and then seemed to be the target of objects thrown by the crowd during his celebrations.
"I rested some players but I didn't suggest that to Frank, I didn't even talk to him," Hiddink said. "He would have looked at me as if to say: 'Why are you doing that?'
"These guys with big personalities, they want to play every game. Maybe some time in the near future I will have to tell him he's not going to play, but I will not be able to look at him if I do."
Victory kept alive Chelsea's faint English Premier League title hopes - they are four points behind leaders Manchester United who have a game in hand - while delivering a serious dent to West Ham's chances of earning the seventh-place finish that will deliver Europa League football next season.
It also provided a sour ending to an otherwise fulfilling day for manager Gianfranco Zola, who signed a new four-year contract immediately after the final whistle.
"We have a project here that we are taking forward, with the coaching staff, (director of football) Gianluca Nani and (chief executive) Scott Duxbury," said Zola.
"We are working together, we believe in the project and we will do everything we can to make it happen."
First Published: Apr 26, 2009 17:58 IST