Blues boss 'frustrated' by fixture pile-up ahead of trip to Norwich

LONDON • Chelsea are currently enjoying a good run, but manager Guus Hiddink is concerned by the hectic fixture schedule confronting his side. The Blues have to play four games in 12 days across three competitions after the club's sixth-round FA Cup tie with Everton was scheduled for March 12.

The Premier League champions visit Norwich City today and host Stoke City on Saturday, before their Champions League last-16 second leg at home to Paris Saint Germain the following Wednesday and the FA Cup tie three days later.

"We have a tight schedule," the Dutchman said. "The players - all players, not just Chelsea players - need at least, when the intensity of the game is as high as in the Premier League, two days' recovery and the third day to start up a bit. We have to protect the players. I'm a little bit frustrated by that (the fixture congestion)."

Chelsea could again be without skipper John Terry today as the centre-back recovers from a hamstring injury he suffered during the 5-1 win over Newcastle United on Feb 14. The former England international did train last week but is still not considered fully fit for the rigours of Premier League action.

"Let's take our time, not rush things," said Hiddink, when asked if Terry would feature today against Norwich. "If the medical staff says so, then I'll be careful."

Norwich have no concerns over scheduling and, if anything, could do with a few more fixtures to aid their battle against relegation.

The Canaries - above the drop zone on goal difference alone - are running out of matches following a sequence of seven without a win, but manager Alex Neil saw positives in his side's display in a 1-0 defeat by leaders Leicester City on Saturday.

"We'll take a lot of heart from the performance," he said. "We've got a big game on Tuesday and, if we can fight and scrap and create as many chances as we did (on Saturday) and try to keep the opposition as quiet, then we've got a good chance of picking up more points."

Pedro (hamstring) is expected to miss out for Chelsea after leaving the field early at Southampton last Saturday. Norwich have question marks over the fitness of Wes Hoolahan and Sebastien Bassong, who are both carrying knocks.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2016, with the headline 'Blues boss 'frustrated' by fixture pile-up ahead of trip to Norwich'. Print Edition | Subscribe