AVB struggles under Hiddink shadow

Andre Villas-Boas was trying to pick up the pieces of Chelsea's worst start to a season as it emerged the shadow of Guus Hiddink would continue to hang over him.

Football News: Guus Hiddink, Ray Wilkins

Villas-Boas was confident he retained the full backing of billionaire Blues owner Abramovich in the wake of his side's 2-1 defeat to Liverpool, which left them a massive 12 points adrift of Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Three defeats in four league games have raised the spectre of a second successive winter of discontent at Stamford Bridge, something dubbed the "bad moment" by Villas-Boas' predecessor Carlo Ancelotti, and a major factor behind the Italian losing his job over the summer.

The same fate will doubtless befall his successor sooner or later if he fails to arrest a slide that will see Chelsea drop out of the top four tonight providing Tottenham do not lose to Aston Villa.

Concerns over Champions League qualification saw Hiddink parachuted in to rescue the Blues' season when Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked almost three years ago.

There is no suggestion Abramovich has any current plans to do the same, but while Hiddink is on the market, he will loom large as Chelsea's likely knight in shining armour.

Agent Cees van Nieuwenhuizen confirmed his fellow Dutchman would take the rest of the year off before making his next move.

Revealing Hiddink had received five offers from clubs and countries across the globe in the days since he lost his job as Turkey boss, he told Press Association Sport: "We have said to all of them that he would first take a break and think over his future and then will come back somewhere maybe in January."

Confirming the jobs offered were a mixture of coaching roles and directorships, Van Nieuwenhuizen refused to confirm or deny whether Chelsea were one of the clubs who had approached the 65-year-old, although it is understood they were not.

Friday saw Villas-Boas suggest there would be no room for Hiddink in the Blues' existing management structure but that did not prevent the Dutchman talking up his close links with Abramovich 24 hours later.

He told RT: "The relationship was and has been and will be very good.

"When I go to London, I am always welcome at Cobham (Chelsea's training ground) and the stadium.

"We don't speak every week but every now and then there is contact and I feel very welcome always.

"I have made a decision to stop the previous job and then one must take some time to reflect and look where there is a prestigious project, not just football but also through other things where I can help somewhere.

"I haven't agreed anything with anyone because I was in Turkey. That's why I will take my time to settle down and reflect on what to do.

"I have enough energy to go on and, what the future brings, we will see."

Hiddink has also been linked with a return to Russia - he coached the national team between 2006 and 2010, combining briefly the role with his work at Chelsea - to link up with mega-rich Anzhi Makhachkala.

"There is deep affection from my side and frequent contact with all kinds of people in Russia which I like very much," he said.

"I have heard it (Anzhi's project) from the outside but it is a prestigious project. I like the project because there must be a good football team.

"It's not just football, it's nice for a region (Dagestan) which is still living in poverty."

The Blues have a real chance to ease the pressure on their manager over the next eight days by sealing qualification for the Champions League knockout phase at Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday, beating Wolves in the league on Saturday, and avenging their defeat to Liverpool by reaching the Carling Cup semi-finals next Tuesday.

They also need to do this in a way that shows Villas-Boas is taking the club in the right direction at the right pace and is not trying to change too much, too soon.



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