LONDON: Guus Hiddink admits the absence of Diego Costa is a major blow to Chelsea’s hopes of taking advantage of Manchester United’s struggles when they travel to Old Trafford on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).
Hiddink took charge of his first game since being installed as Chelsea interim manager, overseeing a frustrating 2-2 draw against Watford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The result left Chelsea in 15th place and came at the cost of a fifth booking of the season for Costa, who will now miss the meeting with United while he serves a one-match ban.
The Spain striker had confirmed his value to Hiddink’s side by scoring twice against Watford and the Dutch manager said: “It’s a setback of course.
“Costa’s performances are improving. I can complain [about the booking], but it’s not my nature. I have to go on and find a solution as soon as possible.”
Loic Remy is expected to step into the line-up for the meeting against United, whose 2-0 defeat at Stoke means they are going into the game without a win in seven matches.
Hiddink acknowledged United are going through a difficult time, but he refused to consider the uncertainty surrounding the future of Old Trafford boss Louis van Gaal.
“Manchester United were first and now they are in a different period. I can’t comment on another manager’s position,” Hiddink said.
Hiddink did, however, express sympathy for the difficulties facing Memphis Depay, the young Holland forward signed by United for £23 million from PSV Eindhoven during the close season.
“In Holland, Memphis Depay was a star player at a young age,” he said.
“He has the talent but is now battling the demands of the Premier League, playing three games a week. These players need the cover of experienced players.
“We will go to Old Trafford, it will be difficult, but I hope this team will show, in every game, the ambition like they showed against Watford—we are going there for the win.”
Costa put Chelsea ahead and salvaged a point after a Troy Deeney penalty and an effort from Odion Ighalo had put Watford ahead.
Hiddink’s side, though, could have claimed all three points had Oscar not failed to convert a late penalty.
“When we are near the end of the game and get a penalty, we deserved a 3-2 win,” he said.
“It’s a pity and a setback. But we have to analyse the game and Watford deserves respect – they have had a lot of clean sheets.
“But the two goals conceded were unlucky, a penalty and a deflection. I’m disappointed but it was important how we reacted when it was 1-2 – that was good.”
Chelsea’s first game since the departure of Jose Mourinho had been played in a hostile atmosphere, with some Blues supporters targeting those players they felt had under-performed under the previous manager.
But a week later, Hiddink believes the players have gone some way to winning back the crowd in the second match.
“It’s now up to the team to show, and take the initiative to get the crowd back. And they did, especially when we went behind,” Hiddink said.
“The team reacted and showed the crowd what they are willing to do, and showed ambition, and the crowd reacted positively to them.”
In contrast to Chelsea’s woes, Watford lie seventh ahead of their home meeting with Tottenham and manager Quique Sanchez Flores believes the draw at Stamford Bridge, coming on the back of the defeat of Liverpool, shows how far his side have progressed.
“I am not surprised and the squad are not surprised that we can draw at Chelsea,” Flores said.
“Some players are even angry with the draw because we had opportunities.
“I like this mentality but I say to them that a draw is a good result because Chelsea played really well.
“We are on the right road so we are happy.”