Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink has criticised his side’s crowded schedule ahead of Tuesday’s Premier League clash with Norwich City.
The reigning champions are one game into a run of five matches in 15 days across all competitions, having scored a late winner at Southampton on Saturday to come away with a 2-1 victory.
Hiddink’s men had been due to face Liverpool in the league on March 13, but will now play against Everton a day earlier in the FA Cup quarter-finals, increasing the demands on the Dutchman’s squad as they prepare to visit Carrow Road this week.
“We have a tight schedule – Norwich on Tuesday and then we have Stoke and then PSG,” he said.
“Then, surprisingly, the Everton game was put on the Saturday instead of the Sunday, because normally we should have played Liverpool on the Sunday.
“The players – all players, not just Chelsea players – need at least, when the intensity of game is as high in the Premier League as it is, two days’ recovery and the third day to start up a bit.
“I don’t know who is deciding [to put the game on the Saturday]. It was astonishing that people could change the kick-off time.
“We have to protect the players. I think every organisation like the clubs and the FA have a medical department and I think the doctors should stand up and say to the FA or television, or who is demanding: ‘Hey, come on’.
“I’m a little bit frustrated by that – it’s five games away, but let’s help each other in this.”
Norwich have no such 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 to leaders Leicester City on Saturday.
“We’ll take a lot of heart from the performance,” he told reporters. “I think we’ll look at the game and think we could have, probably should have, got something better than what we did.
“But 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, while John Terry (hamstring) could be pushing for a return.
Norwich have question marks over the fitness of Wes Hoolahan and Sebastien Bassong, who are both carrying knocks.
Diego Costa scored the only goal in the reverse fixture, which formed part of a run of just one win in seven for Chelsea under Jose Mourinho – a sequence that cost the Portuguese his job.
Key Opta Stats:
– Chelsea have won seven and lost none of the last nine Premier League meetings with Norwich City.
– Norwich have scored just four goals in that nine game run and failed to score in four of the last six meetings with the Blues in the competition.
– Steven Naismith has scored six goals in seven Premier League appearances against Chelsea.
– Guus Hiddink has lost just one of his 23 Premier League matches as a manager.
– Chelsea are looking to win three successive Premier League matches for the first time since April 2015.
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