London (AFP) – Guus Hiddink has warned incoming Chelsea manager Antonio Conte that he faces a tough task to get the club back into the Premier League’s top four.
Italy coach Conte will take charge at Stamford Bridge after Euro 2016 and Chelsea interim manager Hiddink believes the permanent successor to Jose Mourinho will have his work cut out to revive a troubled squad amid intense competition from the rest of the league.
After winning the English title last season, Chelsea’s season was ruined by Mourinho’s rift with members of his side and they have ended up in mid-table obscurity after briefly slipping towards the relegation zone.
With every top-flight club set to benefit from the vast amount of television money pouring into the league, Hiddink doesn’t expect Conte to get an easy ride in his first season in England.
“There are no guarantees whatsoever,” Hiddink told reporters on Friday.
“The clubs will have more money to spend next year, which means the league will be even more competitive, which is very nice for everyone, except for those who have been used to being at the top for many years.
“We’re used to fighting for something and nothing is at stake at this moment.
“That’s strange. You’re a little bit empty because there’s no silverware to go for.”
Hiddink refused to blame Mourinho for Chelsea’s season unravelling, but the Dutchman has restored stability after his appointment for a second caretaker spell in December.
Eden Hazard is nearing a return after training with the first team this week after hip and groin injury but will not be considered to face Manchester City this weekend.
The Belgium midfielder was last season’s PFA Players’ Player of the Year, but has failed to score in the league this term.
Hiddink attributed the “alarming” fall in the form of the playmaker to injuries.
“I was racking my head also ‘what can I do to get him back on track?’” Hiddink said.
“He fell too much into injuries and had difficulties to come back and get out of that.”