Remember the good old days, Chelsea fans?
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]
You know what I’m talking about — when your team was good, you were challenging for the Premier League title every season, winning the UEFA Champions League was a realistic target and the FA Cup was, with all due respect, an afterthought until the latter stages of the competition.
Oh, how things have changed. With the Blues currently 14 points off the pace of the Premier League’s top-four, and at present roughly the 10th-best remaining team in the Champions League (they’re also 2-1 down to Paris Saint-Germain after leg 1), the FA Cup is really all that’s left.
As such, interim manager Guus Hiddink has done a bit of re-prioritizing in recent weeks as his side’s FA Cup fifth-round clash with Manchester City (Sunday) and the final 12 games of the PL season are upon us. From here on out, in the event of progression on Sunday, it’ll be Chelsea’s big stars selected for the FA Cup and a handful of youth academy youngsters, such as 20-year-old midfielder Bertrand Traore (above photo), spelling them ahead of and/or after each important cup fixture — quotes from the Guardian:
“Putting one of the youngsters in depends on the demands of the FA Cup, but I don’t hesitate putting them in if needed. We have games still to go in the Premier League where there might be more options. I don’t make any guarantees to players but there might be more opportunities for them in the near future.”
“Although [Traore’s] not playing, his character is very optimistic. He’s always coming in with a smile, whether he’s playing or not. When a player comes into the Premier League, saying ‘I don’t want to go on loan, I want to make my progress here’, and when they get their first goal – and it was a beautiful goal, a typical striker’s goal which I like very much – it was a tremendous joy for him.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time this year we’ve heard a Chelsea manager say he’ll be giving the kids more opportunities in the league, only to really never do so with any regularity or effect. If Chelsea don’t advance to the FA Cup quarterfinals on Sunday and then go out of the CL in two weeks’ time, Hiddink could go all-in on the youngsters with absolutely nothing left to play for this season.