Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Chelsea strikers praise Hiddink

Didier Drogba

Guus Hiddink started work with Chelsea yesterday and immediately received some good news from star strikers Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.

The Dutchman’s predecessor at Stamford Bridge, World Cup-winner Luiz Felipe Scolari, conspicuously failed to extract the best out of his forward pairing — something which may have contributed to his premature departure a week ago.

Drogba, irresistible last term, struggled with injuries for much of Scolari’s reign and did not appear to react well to Anelka’s subsequent emergence as the Blues’ number one striker.

Now the Ivorian, who had been linked with a move away from the club, insists he is ready to prove his value on the pitch again.

Even more significantly, though, is Anelka’s assertion that the pair can form a workable partnership - something Scolari apparently doubted.

Asked whether he could get back to his best under Hiddink, who will take charge of his first game at Aston Villa on Saturday following his appointment until the end of the season, Drogba told French sports newspaper L’Equipe: "I hope so.

The important thing for me now is simply to be on the pitch. It is up to me to show that I deserve to be on the pitch. I hadn’t lost my instincts, I just lacked matches."

Drogba added: "When you are sidelined for four months like I was, and then you return and get injured again, it isn’t easy.

"If you want to improve your condition, it is better to be on the pitch.

Training is all well and good but playing for 90 minutes is better."

Anelka appears happy for Drogba to be back in the reckoning for a starting berth having scored a hat-trick in tandem with him in the 3-1 FA Cup win over Watford at the weekend.

"The last 20 minutes (against Watford) was good because a lot of people said we couldn’t play together, but we never really tried to play together," Anelka said.

"It was me scoring this time, but it might be Didier next time. That’s good for Chelsea."

Crucially for Hiddink, whose chances of success or failure could rest upon his ability to unite the club’s playing staff following reports of dressing room rifts, Drogba feels the same.

"There is something between us," he added.

"We are both quite intelligent players who know how to play together and create spaces for one another.

"It is a long time since he scored and then he scores three, three real striker’s goals. I hope that will provide him with a boost, because the team needs him."

Blues midfielder Frank Lampard, meanwhile, insisted he has high expectations of working with Russia boss Hiddink - even suggesting he had already influenced the squad before officially starting work.

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