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Guus Hiddink: Chelsea quest to close in on top four will not be 'boring'

West Bromwich AlbionWest Bromwich Albion
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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."

The Blues' struggles this season mean will have to go for broke to claim a top four spot, 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."

West Brom boss Tony Pulis believes it would be disrespectful to Mourinho to credit Hiddink with Chelsea's mini-revival.

The Baggies remain three points clear of the Blues, but Hiddink's impact upon his side have led to renewed criticism of his predecessor.

However Pulis rounded on any of Mourinho's critics who would suggest the Dutchman is the sole reason for Chelsea's return to form.

He said: "The fact is Mourinho won the league last season by a country mile. There might have been other reasons that things didn't go so well this year but to put Jose down is completely and utterly out of order.

"What you said was disrespectful to Mourinho and also the players that won the league last year because they played some great football last year, some fantastic football.

"We're in for a tough game It's Chelsea they've some wonderful players and we'll have to be on it and at our best.

"That's the same with every top four or five club. If you go away and play against them you have to have at least ten of your players playing to their maximum to get a result."

Jonas Olsson and Victor Anichebe (both hamstring) are major doubts for the trip, but Ben Foster is available after making his comeback in Saturday's 2-2 FA Cup draw with Bristol City.


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