Martin O’Neill believes Chelsea cannot afford to lose another game this season if they are to retain any hope of lifting the Premier League title. But, ahead of today’s game between the two clubs, the Aston Villa manager insists the Blues have the quality of players in their squad to put together just that sort of run. Guus Hiddink takes charge for the first time at Villa Park with Chelsea 10 points adrift of leaders Manchester United with 13 games to play – and two behind third-placed Villa.
O’Neill said: “I think Chelsea need to win against us to stay in the title race with Manchester United having won their games in hand, and opened up that five-point gap over Liverpool and another five points on top of that over Chelsea. With 13 games left, for Chelsea to stand any chance they will maybe need to win 11 games and be unbeaten in the 13 games.
“That would take some doing but, with that group of players who have been over the same course before, it is not beyond them to achieve that. Last season, with about this number of games left it looked as if they were out of the picture and then they had a very good run and only effectively lost the chance when they drew with Wigan who scored very late on. And then they were within a width of a goalpost of winning the Champions League final.”
O’Neill’s side were beaten 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in October – a performance he hailed as “top class” – and is surprised at their dip in fortunes and change of manager. He said: “I was surprised to see Scolari go, someone who has won the World Cup and has been lauded as a great manager – which I still believe he is. But, if Chelsea needed rejuvenating, then the calibre of a man like Guus Hiddink should generate that rejuvenation. I think it may be what Chelsea have been looking for.”