LONDON - The partnership between Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka that was deemed unworkable by former Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari is showing promising signs of development under the guidance of new manager Guus Hiddink.
Scolari rarely played the two forwards together, saying that doing so upset his midfield balance. With Anelka the man in form, Drogba was left in the cold.
The Ivorian had fought his way back from a series of injuries and he cut a forlorn figure in the weeks leading up to Scolari's departure on Feb. 9.
Hiddink arrived, immediately paired up the two men for his first game in charge at Aston Villa and was rewarded with Anelka's 21st goal of the season and a victory.
He stuck to the policy on Wednesday against Juventus in the Champions League last 16 and again reaped the benefits as Drogba capped his best 45 minutes of the season with the only goal of the game.
The two men did not really operate as a traditional front pairing as Anelka, also known to have had the sulks when things did not go his way, played more of a supporting role out wide. The Frenchman did not stint on his workload though and, with Salomon Kalou also operating as a wide attacker, Frank Lampard had a juicy selection of targets for his incisive passing.
"Drogba and Anelka are disciplined in what we are asking from them," Hiddink said after the 1-0 first-leg victory.
"Didier is fighting so Anelka can take advantage. Generally it's good to have him in the centre position, it's difficult to play against him."
Drogba was certainly up for it at Stamford Bridge and apart from his well-taken, 12th-minute goal could have had at least one more from three good headed chances.
Chelsea's fans were delighted to have their old centre forward back, while Hiddink said he had found Drogba a willing worker.
"I didn't have to ask. On my first day here I discovered no player I had to motivate," said the Dutchman.
"I didn't have this problem at all with Drogba. From my first day he's worked hard in training and he did the same in the first game against Villa and again tonight."
Drogba's presence and Anelka's team spirit helped Chelsea to run rings round Juventus for 20 minutes but they gradually lost their way and began to sit deeper.
The Italians drew breath and came into the game themselves. Though they rarely threatened Petr Cech they enjoyed the lion's share of attacking possession in the second half.
Hiddink suggested that one of the reasons for the turnaround was that Chelsea were just off the pace in terms of fitness.
"When you can't maintain control in the whole game it is a problem," he said. "You can't control everything for 90 minutes but you should be able to control 90 percent of the game.
"We are not 'top-top' in terms of fitness. The physical level is good but in these high-level games you must be more than top."comments