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 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 tonight 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.”
Hiddink says Eden Hazard is “doing better and better, but still not available” as he recovers from a groin injury, 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 some physical problems.
“He has to enjoy it and get rid of his physical problems.”
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 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.
“The window opens and the mouth shuts so we don’t have interest in this moment,” Hiddink added.
Hiddink did rule out the prospect of Brazilian Kenedy leaving on loan, amid reports of interest from Italy.
Meanwhile, West Brom boss Tony Pulis has thrown down the gauntlet to his out-of-contract stars to earn new deals.
The contracts of James Morrison, Gareth McAuley, Stephane Sessegnon, Jonas Olsson, and Victor Anichebe all expire at the end of the season.
Morrison claimed he is yet to enter into discussions with the Baggies over a new one after scoring in Saturday’s 2-2 FA Cup draw with Bristol City.
Albion go to Chelsea tonight and, ahead of the game at Stamford Bridge, Pulis has told his players to stop fearing for their futures.
“I think we have four or five people talking to the club about contracts now at the moment,” he said.
“Again it is one you will have to speak to the club about but it is not just James. It is an incentive for the club and an incentive for the players.
“For me as a player I never had a worry about trying to sign a long-term contract. I think Harry (Redknapp) gave me my longest contract at Bournemouth.
“Generally I was quite happy to run the contract out and if the club wanted me they would give me another one. If they didn’t I was always confident there would be another club out there.
“I think things have changed and players want stability and security and all that stuff, it has changed so much it is unbelievable.”
And Pulis — who is sweating on Olsson and Anichebe’s hamstring injuries — doubted Morrison’s claim he was yet to speak to the club over a new deal.
He added: “I am not so sure that is true. I think there have been discussions.
“I wouldn’t be worried if I was James, I wouldn’t be worried if I was one of the ones who are talking to the club now.”
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