Chelsea quest to close in on top four will not be ‘boring’
Guus Hiddink has vowed to blood youngsters in Chelsea’s pursuit of a top-four finish in the Premier League – and insisted the quest would not be “boring”.
The Chelsea interim boss has every intention of fielding the likes of 19-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek as the holders bid to make up a 13-point gap to fourth-placed Tottenham. The midfielder scored in last Sunday’s FA Cup defeat of Scunthorpe.
“So long as we have the possibility to go to fourth place we will go for that,” Hiddink said.
“It’s not that we are without chances to go there (fourth) and then we bring in youngsters, no.
“I will not hesitate whenever possible to bring in youngsters as well. The youngsters must try to learn also to work under this pressure.”
Hiddink was asked whether he had ever been bored watching one of his teams, a reference to fellow Dutchman Louis van Gaal’s admission that he has found his Manchester United side dull at times this term.
United are fifth, three points behind Spurs and 10 ahead of Chelsea, who play West Brom on Wednesday night and Everton on Saturday in two home games which will test their top-four credentials.
“You cannot expect that every game is an exciting game, but all the coaches I think like to see their game played in an exciting way,” Hiddink said.
The Blues will have to go for broke to claim fourth, with some estimating they need an average of 2.6 or 2.7 points per game in the remaining 18 fixtures.
Hiddink, who only lost one league game of his interim spell in 2009, said: “That’s huge. (If we lose only one game) then we are close – and that is not boring.”
Owner Roman Abramovich has been at Chelsea’s Cobham training base this week to see how his team were shaping up since last month’s departure of Jose Mourinho and the caretaker appointment of Hiddink.
The Russian will have seen Eden Hazard, last season’s startling performer, training alone as he bids to recover from a groin injury.
Hiddink says Hazard is “doing better and better, but still not available”, while Diego Costa (bruised knee) and Loic Remy (calf) are fit, but Radamel Falcao (thigh) is still out.
Hazard’s alarming dip in form appeared to perplex Mourinho and Hiddink has no plans to rush the Belgian playmaker back.
“It’s for me about freshness,” Hiddink said.
“If the mind is fresh, if players are eager to step on to the training ground and enjoy training, it’s a signal of freshness.
“For him (Hazard) it’s the same. He has won these trophies but had this season with some mostly physical problems.
“He has to enjoy it and get rid of his physical problems. Automatically he will come into his normal shape of play.”
Asked if he would put an arm around Hazard to boost his apparently fragile confidence, Hiddink said: “I am not his mother.”
He added: “It’s all an individual approach. One (player) needs a lash, another one needs an arm. Another one needs to be pinched a bit.
“But we give him the time to come back to the level where he can play.”
Hiddink would not disclose whether right-back Branislav Ivanovic or Loftus-Cheek would be offered new contracts or whether Chelsea would be active in this month’s winter transfer window.
“I don’t think it’s now the moment to go public if we have some wishes or we feel that we have to cover up a position,” he said.
Hiddink did rule out the prospect of Brazilian Kenedy leaving on loan, amid reports of interest from Italy.
He added: “At the moment he will stay until the end of the season. We might need him.”