Alexandre Pato may make Chelsea debut, Diego Costa could be rested
LONDON -- Alexandre Pato is now in contention to make his Chelsea debut as the champions prepare to rest Diego Costa to ensure he is fresh to face Paris Saint-Germain, interim manager Guus Hiddink has said.
Chelsea face Norwich City at Carrow Road and Stoke City at Stamford Bridge this week before the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 clash with the Ligue 1 leaders, and Hiddink has already voiced his annoyance with the congested nature of the Blues' fixture schedule in the coming weeks.
Costa has been rejuvenated since Hiddink succeeded Jose Mourinho in December, registering nine goals and six assists in 13 matches in all competitions compared to just four goals and one assist in 23 appearances under the Portuguese this season.
Asked if the Spain international could be rested to try to aid Chelsea's chances of overturning a 2-1 first-leg defeat when they host PSG in nine days' time, Hiddink replied: "There is a possibility, yes. We have two league games coming up before PSG."
Costa's potential absence raises further questions over the readiness of Pato, who has been following what Hiddink describes as a "preseason" fitness regime of double sessions at Cobham since signing for Chelsea on loan from Corinthians in January.
Hiddink says Pato is now fit enough to make a contribution on the pitch and is not ruling out the possibility of the Brazilian featuring in his squad to face Norwich or Stoke, but admits that youngster Bertrand Traore -- who has scored on each of his last three substitute appearances -- is ahead of Pato and Loic Remy in Chelsea's striker pecking order.
"He is not ready for 90 minutes but he is able to play part of the game," Hiddink said of Pato. "But once more I say that we consider also the chances for the young guys.
"He is eager and we have also a healthy competition between the strikers in a very good atmosphere. Diego is the No. 1 but the others have stepped up. I'm especially happy with the progress of Bertrand Traore.
"Although he's a young guy and the others might have more status, I'm not just looking at that. I'm looking also at the youngsters who are making good progress, and then [Pato] and Remy are also in a good position to compete.
"Let's hope [Pato can make an impact] because we have games coming up in the near future, but that's why I said in his particular situation it's best to have players on loan, so he can get used to this club and the club can make a proper judgement about his performances in training and in short parts of the game.
"At the moment to be fair to everyone, the youngsters are a bit ahead. I like fair competition."
Hiddink is less upbeat about the condition of Pedro Rodriguez.
The Spain winger limped from the field seven minutes into Chelsea's 2-1 win over Southampton on Saturday with a hamstring problem and now faces a nervous wait to see if he can recover in time to feature against PSG.
Hiddink said he was due to visit Pedro later on Monday and added: "Yesterday he was here for treatment. Normally with these kinds of injuries -- though I need the information from the medical staff -- I'm not that positive that it will be resolved in a few days."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.