Alexandre Pato could make his long-awaited Chelsea debut during the final eight games of the Premier League season, with boss Guus Hiddink acknowledging he has the chance to experiment.
Former AC Milan star Pato has failed to make a senior appearance since joining Chelsea on loan from Corinthians in January – a move it was hoped would help to revive the 26-year-old Brazil international’s ailing career.
Chelsea are out of the Champions League and FA Cup and travel to bottom club Aston Villa on Saturday lying 10th in England’s top flight.
Diego Costa is back in training but suspended for the match, while playmaker Eden Hazard remains sidelined with his troublesome hip problem.
It means Pato could come into contention at Villa Park, although the emergence of youngster Bertrand Traore under Hiddink and the return to fitness of Loic Remy could complicate the issue.
Hiddink explained: “Whether he will be actively involved we will see tomorrow but we have now eight games coming up and there’s not much to win, to be honest, for Chelsea anymore.
“I don’t give any player a guarantee but there might be some time for experiments. He has worked very hard in the international break, along with the other strikers.
“When I started we had just Diego [as a striker] and that was one of the reasons that Pato was coming on loan but, meanwhile, there was development for Traore, who progressed rather fast.
“Remy is coming back after injury and I try to make fair judgements as well. We have eight games to go and there might be some options.”
Hiddink reported high spirits on the training field at Chelsea’s Cobham base although the veteran Dutchman added he would rather endure the headache of trying to freshen up his squad for crunch matches every three or four days.
“I would have preferred to be very committed and breaking my head about how to get the players fresh every three days, which would have meant we were in the FA Cup and Champions League as well,” he said.
“It is nice to work on a daily basis on the pitch with the players. But to be honest I would have liked to be breaking my mind on who to play and how to play. It’s not preferable.”