After guiding Chelsea FC into the last four of the UEFA Champions League and into the FA Cup final, coach Guus Hiddink has revised the targets he set at the start of a tenure that has revitalised the London club's fortunes.
Article top media content
Guus Hiddink admitted that a run of just one defeat in 15 games since taking the reins in February has prompted a revision of his initial targets for a tenure which is proving to be the stuff of dreams for both the Dutchman and the Chelsea FC faithful.
Appointed as a temporary replacement for Luiz Felipe Scolari following an uninspiring goalless home draw against Hull City AFC, the size of the task facing the 62-year-old was evident as Chelsea struggled for 75 minutes of their FA Cup tie against Watford FC in his first match in the stands. A quick-fire hat-trick from Nicolas Anelka then changed the course of both that tie and Chelsea's campaign, after which they have progressed to the last four of the UEFA Champions League, where they meet FC Barcelona on Tuesday, and the final of the FA Cup against Everton FC.
"When we took over in February, Chelsea were competing for fourth and fifth position [in the Premier League]," said Hiddink, who has experienced just one defeat since succeeding Scolari. "Our first aim was to get Chelsea into next year's Champions League. You can be satisfied with climbing up the league, but in top-level football when you get where you want to be you have to restructure your ambitions and not be happy with your initial targets.
"If the team is doing well you make the demands higher. We did that and we have an FA Cup final spot. When we started in February if we knew we'd have a semi-final [against Barcelona] we would have thought that was terrific, but you always have to take the next step when you're a big club with ambition." Chelsea's next step is a first leg against Barça at the Camp Nou, a tie which pits together the 29-goal top scorers in the competition and the team with the best defensive record in the English top flight, the Blues having conceding just 20 goals in 34 outings.
"I've seen Barcelona, and not just in recent weeks, playing fantastically well," continued Hiddink, who suffered defeats on his four Liga trips to Catalonia during his spells managing Valencia CF and Real Madrid CF. "These two teams both have the style to attack when they can. Barça like to attack; Chelsea are not a team to sit back and wait for things to happen. It's more or less an open clash between two teams who like to go forward."
Hiddink revealed at the weekend that he had twice played out the game in his mind, but refused to be drawn on the outcome he had imagined when questioned on the eve of the first leg. "If I could see into the future I'd be in another job," he joked. "What I try to do is analyse what can happen. Then you have to see if it's in your power to prevent them playing well while we're dangerous at the same time. I cannot predict this. I said last week that I've never lost a game in preparation – more often the reality is more cruel."