LONDON: Guus Hiddink has set his sights on giving Chelsea the perfect farewell as the Blues interim manager sets out on the road to Wembley in the FA Cup.
Hiddink confirmed this week that he will step down from his second spell as Chelsea caretaker once the current campaign comes to an end, but he is determined not to leave Stamford Bridge empty-handed.
With Chelsea’s chances of success in the Premier League long since ruined by their miserable first half of the season, Hiddink, who took charge after Jose Mourinho was sacked in December, has circled the dates of the FA Cup and Champions League finals in his diary.
Hiddink memorably ended his first spell as Chelsea’s interim boss by winning the 2009 FA Cup final against Everton and then flouting Wembley regulations by smoking a victorious cigar as the post-match celebrations began in the dressing room.
Ahead of third tier Scunthorpe’s visit to the Bridge for Sunday’s third round tie, the Dutchman admitted he would relish a similar scenario in May.
“Fourth place in the Premier League is difficult. Then there are two targets left and one is the FA Cup,” Hiddink said.
“It’s a big target for this group of players to get it.
“I’ve put two dates in my mind which is May 21 and 28 and then it’s finished. Then I can go home on the 29.
“Those dates are the FA Cup final and Champions League final.”
On paper, Scunthorpe, currently 15th in League One, should pose little threat to Hiddink’s dreams of Wembley glory.
But it was only last year that Chelsea suffered a humiliating FA Cup fourth round exit against third tier Bradford at the Bridge.
Chelsea’s malaise over the last few months has been so severe that the minnows will fancy their chances of causing a famous upset in their first meeting with the Blues since another FA Cup third round tie 11 years ago ended in a 3-1 win for the Premier League club.
Since Mourinho’s departure, Chelsea have slowly shown signs of improvement and last weekend’s 3-0 victory at Crystal Palace was both their most impressive display in Hiddink’s three matches and their biggest league win of the season.
The former South Korea coach knows there is still plenty of work to do however, largely in calming the troubled waters caused by the disintegration of Mourinho’s relationship with several Chelsea stars.
The sight of Diego Costa and Oscar having to be separated by team-mates after a training ground bust-up this week was hardly encouraging on that front, although Hiddink downplayed attempts to interpret the row as a sign of continued turmoil behind the scenes.
Hiddink is more focused on dealing with the injury problems that will deprive him of the services of Belgium playmaker Eden Hazard, as well as strikers Radamel Falcao and Loic Remy, against Scunthorpe.
“I’m worried about his situation,” Hiddink said of Falcao’s latest injury setback.
“But in the upcoming games we have to show what we’re capable of.”
Scunthorpe captain Stephen Dawson is relieved not to have to face Hazard, but he conceded the chances of Mark Robins’ men springing a surprise would have been greater if the unlamented Mourinho was still in charge.
“I think so, if you look at their run now and the way they are playing,” he said.
“It’ll be very difficult, we’re under no illusions. We all know we are the underdog, people won’t give us a chance, which is fair enough.
“We accept that but we want to go out there and do ourselves proud.
“I suppose the only plus side is I don’t think Hazard is playing, so it might give us a bit of a chance.”