The forward, so impotent and theatrical this season he became Stamford Bridge’s pantomime villain while contributing to the end of anti-hero Jose Mourinho, rescued a point for his side with a late strike against Watford on Saturday.
The former Atletico Madrid talisman opened the scoring with an instinctive finish before Quique Flores’ side rallied in the middle third of the match and took the lead thanks to an Odion Ighalo strike and a penalty from visiting captain Troy Deeney.
The heavy-browed striker could even have won the match and completed his hat-trick if he’d been offered the chance the take his side’s 80th-minute penalty that Oscar eventually skied into the Matthew Harding stand after slipping on the slick turf.
Instead, his final contribution to the match, which marked his return to the hearts of the Chelsea fans, was a needless yellow card - his fifth of the season in the top flight - that now rules him out of the visit to Old Trafford this evening and leaves Hiddink with a Didier Droga-shaped void where Chelsea’s lone striker and fulcrum should operate.
“He is out for his fifth, which means we have to think how to solve that problem,” Hiddink explained. “it’s a pity because that was a good performance, it makes it even more of a pity. “It’s a setback because he has improved his performances. I could complain a lot but that is not my nature, we just have to find a solution as soon as possible.”
The similarities between Hiddink and the man in the opposite dug-out this evening do not end at their shared home country. While the Chelsea boss has an expensive attacker missing through suspension, Louis van Gaal has one virtually invisible through a troubling lack of form in Memphis Depay.
Depay impressed enough at the 2014 World Cup under Hiddink’s guidance and in his final season at PSV that followed, to earn a £27m move to Old Trafford in the summer but his stock has plummeted in Manchester and he was hauled off in the 2-0 defeat to Stoke on Saturday at half-time after being a fault for the opening goal.
Hiddink insists the 21-year-old is still bedding in and adapting to his newfound life in the Premier League where tough tests – especially at this time of year – come thick and fast and the new boy’s transition should be made smoother by the more experienced players around him.
“He’s a very young guy and when he was in Holland he was one of the star players at a very young age,” Hiddink said.
“At a very young age he was bombarded as one of the big talents and he does have the talent. But he is also having to confront the demands of the Premier League which are much higher in intensity and it’s an experience all (imported) players have to overcome and they need time.
“He has given interviews when he has said ‘hey I need time to get used to this other way of playing and the intensity and the games every three days.’ Those guys need cover from the experienced players.”
Watford boss Flores was more than happy with the point added to his side’s survival-aimed haul. Tottenham tonight is his next challenge and the Spaniard will use his nose to settle on the best XI to take on Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
“I didn’t do two line-ups,” Flores said when asked if he would tinker with his squad to cope with the fixture pile up. “I did one for Chelsea and I will have to smell the dressing room and watch the video of the match and then I will make decisions for the match against Tottenham.
“We will see what the new plan will be, it won’t be completely different to Chelsea because Tottenham play with the same shape but the players are different and Mauricio Pochettino could make changes also.”
Courtois 6; Ivanovic 6, Cahill 6, Terry 6, Azpilicueta 6; Fabregas 5 (Mikel 46, 7), Matic 6; Pedro 6 (Hazard 75, 6), Oscar 5, Willian 7; Costa 7
Gomes 6; Nyom 5, Britos 6, Cathcart 6, Holebas 6; Watson 8, Capoue 7; Abdi 6 (Abdi 69, 4), Deeney 8 (Guedioura 93, 3), Jurado 6 (Anya 73, 4); Ighalo 8.