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Hiddink Eyes Second Spot

24 Apr 2009 15:09:00

Hiddink Eyes Second Spot

Guus Hiddink is determined to finish the season in second place in the Barclays Premier League after accepting Chelsea cannot realistically win the title. Hiddink's side are six points adrift of leaders Manchester United, who also have a game in hand on the Blues. So the Dutch coach, whose side face a revitalised West Ham under former Chelsea stalwarts Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke on Saturday, has targeted a runner-up finish. "We have to take the league seriously," declared Hiddink. "We have to be in the first few spots for qualification for the Champions League next year. "We have to go for second or third place at least, so we have to take this game very seriously. "There's always a reaction. As we said before, the pressure was always on Liverpool and us not to drop points, which we did. "So, normally, we cannot go for the title. We have a very important game coming up on Tuesday, but also tomorrow. "Man Utd had a difficult time dropping points a few weeks ago, but their game in hand is a luxury. "They'll use that. If you're in the driver's seat, and you are used to being there, then you are the favourite. They are favourites. When I'm favourite, normally I win." But Hiddink admits to feeling a slight sense of relief in being forced to concentrate on the Champions League and the FA Cup final in May. "Yeah, relief," said Hiddink. "If your squad isn't fully equipped with quality players for all the 11 positions, sometimes you might pay a high price if you fight for three titles. But it's difficult, as it's shown for us. "We have to be realistic. The big clubs don't waste too many points these days. They recover." West Ham are gunning for seventh place and a place in the new Europa League next season. Despite a catalogue of injuries during the season and the sale of players during the January transfer window, West Ham will provide Chelsea with another difficult test at Upton Park. Zola and Clarke are still held in high esteem by the Chelsea faithful and there are many fans who would like to see the duo in charge at Stamford Bridge next season when Hiddink departs. But the Dutch coach would not be drawn on Zola's potential to manage a top-four club, or more specifically, Chelsea. "I see potential," said Hiddink. "I haven't seen the younger managers working, but I see some guys who, when you have a conversation with them or they appear on television, come across very intelligently. "Zola is one of the guys who can make this change to being a manager. But I also see some English managers. "Everyone has to start at high levels sometimes. One can need 500 games and might not feel he's suited for that job. Another one less. "I haven't seen him (Zola) working. I see him from the outside. He's a very intelligent man. He was a brilliant footballer, a very intelligent man and player, and I think he likes to learn a lot still. But I cannot judge whether he's capable of doing that (managing Chelsea) now." Hiddink may choose to rest a number of players against West Ham prior to Tuesday's Champions League semi-final, first leg with Barcelona and young England defender Michael Mancienne could be given a chance to show what he can do at left-back. Ashley Cole is suspended against Barcelona and Mancienne, among others, is a candidate for the task of stopping Barcelona's flying winger Lionel Messi. "We have some options," said Hiddink. "Everyone knows that, in the squad, we don't have double natural coverage for the left-back position, so we have to improvise. "We have some candidates. It's obvious that, in the West Ham game, we use this option."


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