Hid­dink ready to sign off by end­ing Spurs chal­lenge

Dutch­man says vis­i­tors will suf­fer from nerves Terry re­turns to squad af­ter in­jury prob­lems

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE - By Ju­lian Ben­netts

Chelsea have an op­por­tu­nity to sal­vage some­thing from their dire sea­son by end­ing Tot­ten­ham’s ti­tle chal­lenge tonight, but Guus Hid­dink be­lieves they could have still been com­pet­ing for tro­phies them­selves if only John Terry had been fit.

The cap­tain will re­turn to the squad to­day as he steps up his re­cov­ery from Achilles and ham­string in­juries that have re­stricted him to just two ap­pear­ances since Fe­bru­ary.

As it stands, though, Terry will make a max­i­mum of just four more ap­pear­ances for the club with Chelsea un­will­ing to of­fer him an ex­ten­sion to the deal that ex­pires this sum­mer.

This, how­ever. is the match that counts - and Hid­dink be­lieves that nerves could cause Tot­ten­ham to slip up when they know any­thing less than vic­tory will gift the ti­tle to Le­ices­ter.

“It’s the first time in their his­tory they’re now in the end com­pet­ing for the ti­tle,” he said. “In some play­ers it might cause nerves and, not by at­ti­tude, they might un­der-act a bit. Le­ices­ter are fear­less and some play­ers might be af­fected by be­ing on top and think ‘what now?’ ”

Yet Tot­ten­ham are not the only ones think­ing “what now”, with Terry de­ter­mined to play on at the age of 35. He hopes that will be at Chelsea – and his chances of be­ing re­tained have been boosted by Hid­dink’s com­ments that the cen­tre­back was sorely missed as his side crashed out of the Cham­pi­ons League to Paris St-Ger­main and the FA Cup to Ever­ton.

So des­per­ate has Terry been to prove his point that Hid­dink says the for­mer Eng­land cap­tain was “un­ap­proach­able” when he suf­fered a set­back in his re­cov­ery a fort­night ago, with the in­terim man­ager hav­ing to tell Terry to take it easy in train­ing.

And while Hid­dink has warned Tot­ten­ham that their play­ers could be af­fected by nerves dur­ing their first ti­tle chal­lenge, it is more likely that a mo­ti­vated Terry will harm their chances as he aims to show in­com­ing man­ager Antonio Conte that he de­serves a new deal.

“Have we missed him? Yes, that is the prob­lem,” said Hid­dink. “I don’t like to com­plain a lot, I mustn’t grum­ble, but at the time we have not got through in the FA Cup and Cham­pi­ons League, we had a bit of lack of play­ers in cen­tral de­fence.

“Do we miss him so much at his age? Of course. He will re­act if there’s com­pe­ti­tion [say­ing]: ‘Don’t touch my spot.’ He had a lit­tle bit of a set­back. He was al­most un­ap­proach­able when he got this set­back phys­i­cally, which shows a big de­sire to play. The de­sire is there, you see it in train­ing ses­sions as well. He’s al­ways mo­ti­vated. He’s tack­ling when­ever it ’s one day be- fore the game or one or two days af­ter the game. I had to put the brake on him a bit which means the de­sire is still high.”

Yet whether or not he is of­fered a new con­tract Hid­dink be­lieves Chelsea should en­sure the likes of Terry and Frank Lam­pard are brought back to be part of the Stam­ford Bridge coach­ing set-up.

In Hid­dink’s na­tive Hol­land, for­mer in­ter­na­tion­als Frank de Boer, Den­nis Bergkamp, Jaap Stam and Ed­win van der Sar are all part of the Ajax coach­ing staff – and he says that Chelsea should fol­low suit. “My opinion of him, Lam­pard, [Di­dier] Drogba, [Michael] Bal­lack, you can have them some­where in the club and they can in­flu­ence the de­vel­op­ment of young play­ers,” the Dutch­man added. “We have that with Ajax and PSV. Those play­ers will be able to give their ex­pe­ri­ence to other play­ers or sec­tions at the club.”

Badly missed: In­juries re­stricted John Terry to just two games since Fe­bru­ary

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