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Hiddink set to favour Chelsea first team over academy stars in FA Cup

Ruben Loftus-Cheek's performance in midfield helped drive Chelsea to victory over Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 19, has only made two starts for Chelsea in all competitions this season.

Guus Hiddink has warned Chelsea's academy stars that he intends to pick a strong team to face Scunthorpe United in Sunday's FA Cup third round tie at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea have dominated their domestic and European peers at various youth levels in recent seasons -- winning four FA Youth Cups, two under-21 Premier League titles and last season's UEFA Youth League crown -- but 17 years after his senior debut, 35-year-old club captain John Terry remains the only academy graduate to become a first-team stalwart at Stamford Bridge.

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The visit of League One opponents on Sunday presents Hiddink with a possible opportunity to field a more youthful line-up but while he is prepared to include one or two teenagers in his matchday squad, the Dutchman remains determined to avoid a repeat of last season's shock FA Cup exit at home to Bradford City as he bids to recapture the trophy he won with Chelsea in 2009.

"I'm getting more and more of a good vision of the young players and I won't hesitate whenever it is convenient to bring them in," Hiddink insisted. "On the other hand they must bring their quality and they may make errors at first. But we also take the FA Cup very seriously. I'm not changing five, six, seven players to bring in five, six, seven players from the academy."

One player hoping for another first-team chance on Sunday is Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The 19-year-old has made two starts in all competitions this season and enjoyed a grand total of four minutes on the pitch since Oct. 17, when he was substituted at half-time against Aston Villa by Jose Mourinho and criticised for the intensity of his defensive work.

Hiddink insists Loftus-Cheek has responded well to the setbacks he has faced in recent months and believes the midfielder has a big role to play at Stamford Bridge.

"He must cope with the situation as a professional," the Dutchman said. "Those things he has to adapt to but I see him working very hard -- not just in his skill but also in the extras he has to deliver. That's very encouraging.

"He is now one of those young players -- 19 years old -- who is growing. Every now and then we talk with him about how I see his development.

"He's answering in his performance, which is encouraging to see. He's 19 but when you see him you think he's already 23, so he's one of those players who can have a bright future."

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