Guus Hiddink begins his second interim period in the Chelsea hotseat with an intriguing home encounter with Watford, who are looking to make it five wins in succession.
Highly successful in the role after being called in to replace Luiz Felipe Scolari in February 2009, the Dutchman returns with the Blues in much more dire straits despite their much-needed win over Sunderland last weekend. He was in the stands for that game as the team produced the kind of display that they have looked a million miles away from producing for much of this season so far, almost as if a considerable weight had been lifted by the departure of Jose Mourinho.
The most noticably changed player was Oscar, who as if a switch had been flicked looked like the fantastic young player he has been in each of his previous three years with Chelsea and deservedly got a standing ovation. But some of his teammates did not get such a glowing response from a largely unforgiving home crowd, with big-name stars Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas among others subjected to more than the odd accusation of letting Mourinho down. It remains to be seen how long it takes for that ill feeling to subside.
Although it is something that may be obscured by the furore surrounding Chelsea at present, Watford represent very tough opponents and are not too far behind leaders Leicester City in being the story of the season so far. They have proved hugely efficient at both ends of the pitch, with a fine defensive record complemented by the goalscoring exploits of their front two, who were again central to another brilliant result last time out as they dismantled Liverpool 3-0.
The nature of their early opening goal in that match was hotly disputed, but there is no question that the Hornets had their illustrious opponents at arm’s length and rarely looked in any trouble. The forwards then came into their own, with Troy Deeney making an incisive pass to pick out Odion Ighalo, who came up with a consummate finish for the second. The Nigerian then wrapped it up late on and ensured the club would move to within just a point of the top four – a staggering achievement.
Chelsea have Eden Hazard back from a hip injury, and have no injury concerns from the win over Sunderland.
Nathan Ake has thrived at Watford since moving on loan from the Blues, but is ineligible here. He is likely to be replaced in the left wing-back position by Ikechi Anya.
Last Meeting: It was no contest when the two teams last met in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge in November 2006, and the star of the show was undoubtedly Didier Drogba, who fired a superb hat-trick in a 4-0 win for the hosts. He turned home the opener from a cross on 27 minutes before a neat passing move led to the second. After setting up Andriy Shevchenko for the third, Drogba completed his treble from Geremi’s cross.