Jose Mourinho was only fired two games later, a 2-1 loss to eventual Premier League-winners Leicester City — they better not blow a five-point lead at this point! — and while that decision was certainly not one made overnight, the result of our first meeting with AFC Bournemouth no doubt played a huge role in it.
On that early December Saturday night, just as we were finally starting to look like a somewhat decent team — and sure enough, under Hiddink, some aspects of our play did regress back (up) to the mean — Chelsea lost at home to a newly promoted team for the first time in over 15 years. The Blues were abject in a scoreless first half, but improved in the second and laid siege to the visitors' goal. And yet it were the similarly abject Cherries who took the lead on their first shot of the half in the 82nd minute. And from an offside position. And Chelsea were denied two penalty shouts. And a generally bad goalkeeper who wasn't even supposed to play produced a performance not seen his days at Celtic. And Matić missed an open net from 5 yards out. He later talked about fractured psyches and fractures hopes, but when cosmic forces conspire against you, you're nothing but a leaf in the wind.
Most of those fractures are not yet truly healed. They might be next season. They might not ever be. Perhaps we can find some scant consolation in beating Bournemouth in this game?
I doubt it. Yay, football!
Date / Time: Saturday, April 23, 2016, 15:00 GMT; 10am EDT; 7:30pm IST
Venue: Dean Court, Bournemouth, England — smallest stadium in the top two flights of English football
Referee: Roger East — this will be Mr. East's fifth Chelsea game. Despite the terrible season, we've managed to win all three of his games in charge (Villa, Sunderland, Newcastle all at the Bridge) this season, to go along with the fourth from last season.
Forecast: Spring sunshine on the South Coast
On TV: none (UK); USA Network (USA); Star Sports 2 / HD 2 (India); elsewhere
Online: NBC Sports Live Extra, NBC Deportes En Vivo Extra (USA); Star Sports (India); Chelsea TV (int'l radio)
AFC Bournemouth team news: Unlike last time, when they were top of the injury league table, Bournemouth only need one hand to count their missing, which still includes tragic knee injury-victim Tyrone Mings, plus others like Harry Arter and Adam Smith. Striker Benik Afobe is doubtful, but Callum Wilson, who had missed most of the season, is back and could be set to start for the first time since late September.
Eddie Howe's boys have been taking it easy even longer than Chelsea have, losing three of their last four after basically ensuring Premier League survival in their first ever top flight season in early March. Howe and the team's rise from the depths of the Football League to top flight semi-relevancy has been one of the best stories of the year, but no one really cares thanks to Leicester's success and, to a lesser degree nowadays, Chelsea's demise.
When we first met, Chelsea were well behind the Cherries in the table; now we're three points ahead of them with a game-in-hand. So we've got that going for us, which is nice. For more on Bournemouth's season and their strengths and weaknesses, be sure to check out Rob's always excellent opposition analysis.
Chelsea team news: Two players were left at home (Zouma, Rémy), while a third, captain John Terry, traveled but will not take part. Eden Hazard should be back for the first time in six weeks, as should Oscar who had missed last weekend with a last-minute illness. Thibaut Courtois will be serving the first of his two-match ban for his red card.
Chelsea have just one win in seven, but the hope, as is usual in these meaningless final few games, is that Hiddink will choose to give minutes to younger players rather than the tired old bunch who got us to this point. Win or lose, up the Blues (kids)!
Previously: Chelsea have not won against Bournemouth since 1994. Granted, we have only faced them the one time since. Here's Eden Hazard eating cookies.