Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Players Needed If We Qualify for Europe -- but Not Many

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Players Needed If We Qualify for Europe -- but Not Many

Article excerpt

Byline: Slaven Bilic

AQUESTION to begin this week's column. Which has been the biggest surprise: Leicester at the top of the Premier League or Chelsea near the bottom? No one would have predicted one of those things -- let alone both of them.

If you swap Leicester with Chelsea it would be more normal. As far as Leicester are concerned, I can't think of something similar in recent years. Okay, Montpellier won the French League in 2012 but they were fifth a couple of seasons earlier.

When Atletico Madrid finished above Barcelona and Real Madrid to win La Liga it was a big surprise but they were, after all, club No3 in Spain.

In Germany, I can remember Hoffenheim were top of the Bundesliga before their winter break a few years ago but they faded.

Leicester haven't faded. Speaking of Germany, what has happened to Chelsea -- our opponents at Stamford Bridge tomorrow -- is similar to Borussia Dortmund last season although they had not been champions a year earlier. Big clubs can struggle and most times you expect them to recover to finish in the top five.

However, Chelsea have struggled to find the consistency although, under Guus Hiddink, they have climbed to mid-table and sit nine points behind us.

I'm sure Chelsea will be back to where they expect to be next season. They have the finances and will be working hard on it. They need some reorganisation but certainly don't need to start from zero.

It's been an unsettling time for the Chelsea players -- Jose Mourinho leaving, Hiddink coming in for a few months and speculation about Antonio Conte joining the club next season.

Hiddink was in this situation at Chelsea in 2009 when they won the FA Cup and almost went to the Champions League Final.

For me, the big shock this season was Mourinho (left) going. Nobody could have predicted that. He will be back soon, he will choose his club. Of course, there has to be a vacancy but he won't struggle to find a job.

I don't know if it will be in the Premier League but I would love it if it was.

As for us, yes, I know we have an opportunity of qualifying for Europe on two fronts -- via a high finish in the Premier League or by winning the FA Cup. …

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