Antonio Conte’s Chelsea reign doesn’t start until after Euro 2016, but following confirmation this week that the Italy coach will take charge at Stamford Bridge, the focus has already switched towards next season.
Guus Hiddink has again done a fine job in his second spell as interim manager at the club and the Blues will head to Swansea today keen to extend their unbeaten Premier League run under the Dutchman.
Last weekend’s 4-0 win at Aston Villa took that run to 14 games and an unfamiliar line-up confirmed Hiddink’s intention to use the final games of the campaign to experiment.
Hiddink made good on his promise to give some of Chelsea’s youngsters the chance to impress and the inclusion of Matt Miazga and Baba Rahman in a back-four at the expense of John Terry and Gary Cahill in particular raised eyebrows.
A decision on Terry’s future will figure highly on Conte’s ‘to-do’ list, with the club captain out of contract at the end of this season.
And after continuing reports that Diego Costa, who is suspended for the Swansea clash having had the two-game ban imposed for his dismissal at Everton extended by another game, is keen on a return to Spain, Conte must also decide how keen he is to keep the controversial striker at the club.
Whatever the outcome of those two decisions, it is clear Conte face a major rebuilding job after a disastrous season.
Even after a reasonable second half of the campaign, the Blues remain in tenth position with only a slim chance of qualifying for the Europa League.
And with changes to come, there is a big incentive for the young players handed their chance by Hiddink to show they should have a place in Conte’s plans.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the 20-year-old midfielder who has made 12 appearances this season, said: “The next manager coming in is watching us now, so you always want to do your best in every game.
“We all want to impress the next man who is taking over. Everyone has got to be at their best, we can’t rest on our laurels because there are no trophies to play for.”
Loftus-Cheek is again expected to start along with fellow youngster Kenedy and Miazga, while Bertrand Traore could start up front ahead of Loic Remy.
Chelsea will face a Swansea side anxious to draw a line under any lingering relegation concerns.
The Welsh side are in 15th place, although they have a 10-point cushion between themselves and the bottom three and with six games remaining know another victory should effectively guarantee safety.
That is also likely to be the trigger for manager Francesco Guidolin to open talks about his future after the Italian’s short and successful spell in charge.
“I will speak in the next few weeks with my chairman (Huw Jenkins) about my future. This is my agreement,” Guidolin said.
“First we must get maybe one, maybe three, maybe four points because 37 points is not enough.
“I’m only thinking match by match and to get many points to finish the season well. This is my dream.
“I hope to show my qualities as a manager, but I have said that my future is the present now and I don’t know if I’m still here next year.
“I would like to show all my qualities, but I don’t know (if that will happen).”
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