The Aston Villa manager, Martin O'Neill, believes that Guus Hiddink would find it difficult to manage both Russia and Chelsea on a permanent basis. Hiddink has taken charge of the Blues until the end of the season while continuing to plot Russia's campaign to reach the 2010 World Cup finals. There has been speculation that Hiddink may also continue at Stamford Bridge in the long term, but O'Neill has doubts over whether that it would be possible to combine the two roles.
He said: "The dual role is incredibly hard. I think there might be a reason for doing it on a short-term basis [at Chelsea]. But, overall, I think it would be very hard to combine an international management role with one in the Premier League over the fullness of time. I'm not sure that's what they are looking at [at Chelsea]. Eventually – when you lose a game or two – someone will accuse you of not spending enough time in one particular camp.
"I think it is exceptionally difficult. Nothing is impossible. Over a short period of time it could work but over a three- or four-year period, I think that would be particularly difficult"
Hiddink watched Villa draw 1-1 with CSKA Moscow in Wednesday night's Uefa Cup tie ahead of tomorrow's Premier League match at Villa Park. Villa would go five points clear of fourth-placed Chelsea if they can avenge a 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season.
The Aston Villa duo Emile Heskey and James Milner are battling to be fit for the Chelsea game. Heskey has missed the last two matches after aggravating an Achilles problem when on England duty in Spain last week. Club record signing Milner picked up a thigh injury in the 3-1 FA Cup defeat at Goodison Park on the weekend.
Curtis Davies is optimistic about being available to face Chelsea after vowing to defy his shoulder problem for the remainder of the season and help sustain Villa's push for a Champions League spot. The central defender admits there is a weakness in his shoulder after dislocating it during the defeat at Everton. Villa can ill afford to lose Davies' services, with Zat Knight currently the only other fit centre-back as Martin Laursen and Carlos Cuellar are also injured.
"The shoulder is OK," Davies said. "It is a bit sore but it feels weak rather than painful. It is a bit of a hindrance when you are trying to hold someone off but, other than that, it is fine, so you get on with it. If it keeps coming out, then obviously you have to address it but the fact it came out and went back in – and the pain had gone – meant I was always going to carry on.
"I will try and get through the rest of the season. There is so much to play for. If I can manage that without hurting it, I've got a long summer to rest. I'm only young so, hopefully, I'm a quick healer, but I need to get through to the end of the season without damaging it and then, hopefully, it will all settle down.
Davies remains optimistic that Villa have the quality to win in Moscow in the Uefa Cup second leg next Thursday after John Carew's second-half equaliser cancelled out the CSKA striker Wagner Love's opener. "We had quite a few good chances and they only had two or three shots on target all through the game and they have scored one," Davies said. "It was a bit frustrating but we are still in the tie. That is the main thing and, if they open up a bit on their own ground, hopefully Ashley [Young] and Gabby [Agbonlahor] with their pace will be able to exploit it.
"We have won 10 away Premier League games. Obviously, going to Moscow is a different animal, playing on an artificial pitch which will be strange for a lot of us. I have never played on one. I've trained on them but when you are training you are a bit more passive. It will be interesting but, at the end of the day, it is a game of football, the same for both teams."
Davies has called on Villa to shake off any tiredness they may be feeling for the visit of Guus Hiddink's side. He said: "There isn't much time to recover, but that is football. If you want to be in every competition, and you want to be successful, that is what happens. It is a shame Chelsea's Champions League game wasn't this week to match ours. It will be interesting to see what happens, but we have got to stay strong and basically go out there and play our game."