LONDON: Chelsea’s interim manager Guus Hiddink is considering blooding the club’s youngsters as he begins a new era with his first match in charge against Watford on Boxing Day.
The Premier League champions are currently 15th in the table following a poor first half to the season that saw Jose Mourinho lose his job.
Now Hiddink is at the helm for the rest of the season and while a place in the top four remains a target, it is far from probable with 11 points to make up between now and May.
But although his role is only due to be short-term, Hiddink is looking even further ahead and is considering Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ola Aina, Charly Musonda, Tammy Abraham and Jay DaSilva for first-team action starting as early as his first game.
“First of all, some youth players are participating in first-team training sessions, but I want my analysis and observations first,” said the Dutchman, who has been appointed interim manager by Chelsea for a second time.
“And it depends on the development as well and what is going on in the next few games.
“I must be convinced of their quality, first of all. I’m not going to say I’m going to bring in a 17-year-old now, but if they are competitive, I’m not against giving them an opportunity.”
Musonda, the 19-year-old attacking midfielder, seems the most likely to be given a chance by Hiddink.
“He’s a young guy I know,” Hiddink said. “I haven’t seen him so far, but there is a big reputation preceding him. Let’s give the kid time to settle and practice with the academy first and then with us.
“I have some time to give judgment to young players, but I’ll have them in the toughness of first-team training as soon as possible.
“The loan is a strategical issue, which we have to discuss in-house. It’s too early to discuss. Let’s give them time to develop.”
The match with Watford at Stamford Bridge will certainly not be an easy match, with Quique Sanchez Flores’s side currently sitting seventh, exceeding early-season expectations.
Chelsea ‘completely different’
“I have a lot of respect for Watford,” said Hiddink, who saw his side beat Sunderland 3-1 last weekend in their first match since Mourinho’s dismissal.
“If you see how they play: very disciplined, very strong strike partnership, Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney, who have shown their strength frequently.
“Hopefully we can go all the way positively. We need to go into a sequence of positive results.”
Watford manager Flores is expecting a far tougher game now that Hiddink, his old mentor from the time he played under him at Valencia in the early 1990s, is in charge.
“Of course it is tougher given a team have changed the manager,” he said. “The team knows they need to show for the new manager. But we are ready for the experience.
“They play well and have lots of experience and quality. We are expecting a very tough match.
“I didn’t play with Guus, but I had him for three years as a coach. I have a very good relationship with him. He is a very nice man.
“He’s always thinking about the ball, he’s worried about the players feeling free. It was 21 years ago, but things change.
“You analyze three games before [you face a team]. But Chelsea is different to what they were under Jose Mourinho. It is completely different.”
Watford, who has reported no new injuries, has won its last four matches, including a memorable 3-0 win against Liverpool last time out.
“We know we have a good run, but the feeling I have in the dressing room is it’s no surprise,” added Flores.
“We have a strong mentality so it is very good for Watford.”