John Obi Mikel's Chelsea career has seemingly been revived by interim manager Guus Hiddink and the Nigerian midfielder, who mostly came off the bench under Jose Mourinho, is thriving as a starter for his new boss.


Mikel played a splendid game against Crystal Palace on Sunday. Paired with Cesc Fabregas in the middle of the park, he sat in front of the Chelsea back four while the Spaniard ventured forward. The result? Both players having their best game of the season.


Hiddink thrust Mikel into the starting XI, opting to leave Nemanja Matic on the bench. The towering Serb seems the one player who hasn't improved since the Dutchman's arrival. He could be blamed for the Blues dropping points in their last two matches, as his silly handball gifted Watford a penalty, and failure to convert a glaring chance against Manchester United cost the team a win.


Mikel, on the other hand, has been a breath of fresh air, and now seems the solution to Chelsea's problems. His inclusion creates the balance the Blues need to impose themselves on other teams. 


He has gone from the overlooked player, whom most people forgot was still at Chelsea, to an unlikely saviour. His dominant display vs the Eagles made him the fan's new fair-haired boy, and there have even been calls for his statue to be erected outside Stamford Bridge!


The Nigerian's influence - in protecting the defence - gave Fabregas new-found comfort. He was able to get into attacking positions without having to worry about defensive duties, as Mikel was in full control.


This isn't a one-off for the midfielder. He played very well against United last Monday, but with Fabregas alongside him - instead of Matic - his concentration needed to be much higher.


As per Squawka, Mikel completed 75 passes on Sunday, second only to Fabregas' 91. He earned high praise from Hiddink, who drooled over his midfield gem.


"He played very well but also in the previous game. He's the ideal player in my option to bring balance to the team," He told reporters. 


"If the team is not willing to defend well, or hasn't got the right balance, then you'll concede a lot of goals. I think John Obi can be one of the key figures in bringing back that balance. On this podium very talented players can explore their qualities.


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"He can recover his radar, he reads the game very well, he knows where the strength of the opponent is and knows how to combat that. He has very good sense, he doesn't do it in a brutal way, he's very elegant. Someone who can defend so smoothly is very beautiful. I don't expect the decisive final pass from him - he can, but he can also let the other players."


Mikel is doing exactly what Matic was doing last season, only with a bit more pulchritude. He is also a very strong character. Despite being mocked by Chelsea supporters every season, overlooked by most managers and having his importance questioned game after game, he works hard and goes about his business without complaint.


Mikel has now become a vital cog in the Chelsea set up. They don't call him the African Zidane for nothing, after all.