Hiddink backs move to rest Courtois for Begovic

LONDON • Guus Hiddink defended his decision to leave out goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois after a 0-1 loss to Swansea condemned Chelsea to a first Premier League defeat under their interim manager.

Hiddink left Belgium international Courtois on the bench at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday, preferring to name Bosnia's Asmir Begovic in his starting line-up.

Begovic did little wrong as Gylfi Sigurdsson's 25th-minute goal effectively sealed Swansea's survival in the top flight and left Chelsea mired in mid-table obscurity.

The Dutchman insisted leaving out Courtois made sense because he wanted to give Begovic a chance to impress at a time when Chelsea are already preparing for incoming manager Antonio Conte's arrival after Euro 2016.

"It is disappointing, but we gave some younger players the opportunity to play and that means there is a risk of losing games," said the manager.

"However, I prefer to give these players the chance. And that is not just about a new manager. At a club like this, you have to show what you are capable of.

"The players have to be internally motivated, that is a key condition of being at a big club like Chelsea.

"Begovic is a good 'keeper and he has proven that. He has done his job as a professional very well.

"He is 100 per cent committed in every training session and that is why I rewarded him with the chance to play."

Hiddink was adamant the announcement this week that Conte will take over in the close-season on a three-year contract had no bearing on Chelsea's lacklustre display in south Wales.

"I don't think so. What we did in the second half was good. I don't think they had it in mind to look to next season," he said.

Swansea - in talks with US investors about a potential takeover - can afford to contemplate a better future.

Swans manager Francesco Guidolin believes his side are now safe from the possibility of relegation to the Championship.

"I think now we can start looking forward rather than over our shoulders," he said.

"I hope we can continue to focus for the rest of the season. It is important to finish the season well."

By the end of the season, Swansea could have new owners. Americans Steve Kaplan, Jason Levien and their investment group want a controlling interest in the Premier League club, the Welsh team said on their website.

"We believe we have a proposal which will help Swansea progress both on and off the field," said chairman Huw Jenkins.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2016, with the headline 'Hiddink backs move to rest Courtois for Begovic'. Print Edition | Subscribe