SOUTHAMPTON, February 28 – Guus Hiddink has attacked the decision to schedule Chelsea’s FA Cup quarter-final meeting with Everton three days after the club’s Champions League showdown against Paris Saint Germain.
Blues’ interim manager Hiddink fears the demands being placed on his players are too high and believes it is time medical professionals had an influence on the fixture list.
Hiddink was speaking after his side’s 2-1 victory at Southampton, a game in which Spanish winger Pedro limped off with a hamstring that could rule him out of the decisive second leg clash with PSG at Stamford Bridge on March 9.
“We have a tight schedule, Norwich on Tuesday and then Stoke and PSG. Then, surprisingly, the Everton game was put on a Saturday instead of a Sunday. Normally we should have played Liverpool on the Sunday,” Hiddink said.
“I don’t know who has decided that, all of a sudden. It was astonishing that people could change the kick-off time.
“We have PSG on the Wednesday night. Hopefully it doesn’t go into extra-time. The players, not just Chelsea players, need time when the intensity of the league is like this.
“The medical people at the FA and the Premier League should make this known as well. We have to protect the players as well.
“The doctors should stand up and say: ‘FA, television, whoever…. hey.’ It’s five games away, so there’s time, but I’m frustrated by that.”
Hiddink, meanwhile, insists he is happy Chelsea’s next manager will reap the benefit of his work in turning the club’s season around.
The 69-year-old has restored stability at the club following Jose Mourinho’s sacking and Saturday’s win at Southampton marked the Dutchman’s 13th domestic game without defeat since taking charge on a short-term contract in December.
– Massive cigar –
Italy coach Antonio Conte is the favourite to be in permanent charge of Chelsea next season and the manner of their victory at St Mary’s -– Branislav Ivanovic’s 89th minute completed a late comeback -– bore the hallmarks of Chelsea’s fighting qualities and not the failings that marked the first half of the season.
“I don’t think I’m doing all the hard work for the next one to sit on his chair with a massive cigar. It doesn’t work like that,” Hiddink said.
“But you know my affection for the club from my previous spell, and even before that when I was at PSV Eindhoven and had contact with Chelsea.
“There is affection from my side for the club. I love the hard work. If they can continue on the levels they’re used to, I’ll be happy.”
Cesc Fabregas brought Chelsea back on level terms after Shane Long’s first half opener.
Chelsea’s Ghana left-back Baba Rahman was guilty of a mistake that led to Long’s goal and was withdrawn at half-time.
“I could say he was injured, but he was just taken off because of that. I don’t like to personalise it, but you have to take decisions sometimes that can appear very harsh,” Hiddink said.
“We have to cope with that. Sometimes you have to take decisions like that. It’s like it is.
“It’s harsh, but I have also to control and not always wait on decisions. I’m responsible for the general result.”
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman was left frustrated his side lost for the first time in seven games, dealing a major blow to their slim hopes of challenging for the top four.
“We don’t think about the top four. We know our ambition. If we can do the same season as last year, it’s like a championship,” Koeman said.
Saints keeper Fraser Forster set a club record of 708 top-flight minutes without being beaten before Fabregas’ goal.
“It’s a nice record, because it’s all about the defensive work and organisation of the team, and he can be proud of that,” Koeman said.
“As can the team. But we are disappointed with the final result.”