Chelsea could be forgiven for wishing that the season would end now, such is the level of disappointment that has greeted the 2015/2016 campaign which is unlikely to make its way onto DVDs any time soon. Guus Hiddink will still hope for a positive ending by securing a top ten finish. It will provide a fitting ending to what has been another welcome spell as caretaker manager. It will also represent a small achievement for a team that almost found themselves facing an unprecedented relegation battle.
A strong finish to the season would also provide fans with fresh hope that Chelsea can bounce back and learn from the mistakes made on and off the pitch. Antonio Conte is set to arrive in the hot seat following Italy’s Euro 2016 campaign. Fans can log onto Coral’s website to receive the latest news and score lines this summer, along with making their own predictions on who will prevail in a tournament that promises to be one of the best in recent history.
There are a number of countries who have a serious chance of going all the way in France, and while fans will hope that Chelsea’s players will report back injury-free and raring to go under Conte once the tournament has finished, one may return to the club with a winner’s medal.
Gary Cahill may not have enjoyed his best season in Chelsea colours after looking so secure and rock solid alongside John Terry as the Blues stormed towards the title last year, but he is likely to play a part for England at Euro 2016 this summer. The 30-year-old could offer experience and nous alongside Chris Smalling, and while Phil Jagielka and John Stones are also in contention, Hodgson appears to prefer Cahill. However, it appears that the England manager has no intention of bringing John Terry back into the international fold; there are some Chelsea fans that would argue that England lack a commanding presence at the back, and with Terry willing to return to the fold, the onus is on Hodgson to make the first move.
Cahill could play an important role for a team that are considered among the dark horses to win Euro 2016, with fans able to take up England’s odds on winning their group with Coral as the best possible start to the summer. Lowered expectations may allow Cahill and his international team-mates to play with the element of freedom that resulted in excellent victories against France and Germany in recent friendlies. If those performances can be repeated this summer, then England’s betting odds to succeed could prove to be excellent value.
Thibault Courtois and Eden Hazard
Belgium have emerged as a major football nation in recent years. Their domestic league has yet to reach the same profile as the Premier League, but Chelsea are fortunate to have two of their most talented players at their disposal. Thibault Courtois and Eden Hazard will play a key role in Marc Wilmots’ team, despite enduring disappointing campaigns at Stamford Bridge by their own standards; the former has endured a rather injury-hit season following his opening day red card against Swansea, while the latter has been a shadow of the player that deservedly won the 2015 PFA Player of the Year award.
Hazard’s brace against Bournemouth were not only the first that he has managed this season, but could also serve as a much-needed confidence boost that benefits Belgium when he takes to the pitch at Euro 2016. Being installed alongside England as dark horses to win the tournament is based upon the golden generation that appear destined to be successful, but Belgium will need Courtois and Hazard to be at their very best to overcome that challenges that lay ahead of them.
Injuries have proven to be a real problem at Chelsea this season. Although it should not be used as an excuse for a rather forgettable campaign, being without Diego Costa at numerous stages has been difficult. The 27-year-old is undoubtedly the best striker at the club (something which Conte may rectify in the summer as none of the other options stood up to the plate when required to do so), with the Spain international providing the element of tenacity and aggression that often sees him get the better of defenders across the Premier League and Europe.
His temperament remains an issue as far as red cards and suspensions go, but taking away that side of his game may result in Costa losing the fear factor. It is that quality that may provide Spain with an ace up their sleeve as they look to match the expectation and pressure placed upon them to return home from Euro 2016 triumphant.