Hiddink fumes at FA over Cup date

Pedro (left) leaving the pitch with a hamstring injury on Saturday. Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink believes such injuries to his players are caused by a fixture overload.
Pedro (left) leaving the pitch with a hamstring injury on Saturday. Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink believes such injuries to his players are caused by a fixture overload.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • 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 clash against Paris Saint-Germain.

The Blues' interim manager fears the demands being placed on his players are too high and believes it is time medical professionals influenced the fixture list.

He was speaking after his side's 2-1 victory at Southampton, a game in which winger Pedro limped off with a hamstring injury that could rule him out of the decisive second leg with PSG at Stamford Bridge on March 9. Chelsea need to overcome a 1-2 deficit against the French champions to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.

"We have a tight schedule, Norwich on Tuesday and then Stoke (on Saturday) and PSG," said the Dutchman last Saturday. "Then, surprisingly, the Everton game was put on a Saturday instead of a Sunday. Normally we should have played Liverpool on the Sunday.

"It was astonishing that people could change the kick-off time. We have PSG on 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."

Hiddink, meanwhile, insists he is happy Chelsea's next manager will reap the benefits of his work in turning the club's season around.

He 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 in December.

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 goal completed a late comeback - bore the hallmarks of Chelsea's fighting qualities and not the failings that marked the first half of the season.

"There is affection from my side for the club," said Hiddink, who is serving a second stint as caretaker manager at Stamford Bridge.

"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. The equaliser ended Saints goalkeeper Fraser Forster's club record of 708 top-flight minutes without conceding.

"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," Southampton manager Ronald Koeman said. "As can the team. But we are disappointed with the final result."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 29, 2016, with the headline 'Hiddink fumes at FA over Cup date'. Print Edition | Subscribe