Chelsea will be boosted by the return of Belgian first-choice Thibaut Courtois when they travel to the Stadium of Light to face relegation battlers Sunderland on Saturday.
In his pre-match press conference, Hiddink spoke to the media on the importance of his players playing to the best of their abilities, and the similarities between the upcoming game and last week’s London derby against Tottenham. The Dutchman also hinted at a strong Blues starting lineup, suggesting that Chelsea would respect the integrity of the competition and continue the same ‘serious’ approach they had in the game against Tottenham for the remainder of the season.
Hiddink is quoted as saying by Chelsea’s official website: “It’s important for ourselves, for our pride and for our enjoyment of football. Given the situation it wouldn’t be fair of us to have a serious approach for the Spurs game and not have a serious approach for the other games.
“Before, I made some changes with Academy players, but it would not be fair to do it again to the other teams we are approaching in the last games.”
Courtois returns; Hiddink refuses to confirm if Belgian will start
Chelsea will welcome back Thibaut Courtois for the Sunderland game, with the Belgian serving his two-match suspension for the red card against Manchester City. On being asked whether Courtois would replace Asmir Begovic in the starting lineup, Hiddink remained coy: “I have decided but normally I give the line-up first to the team, which we will do tomorrow morning.”
The Blues will be without defender Kurt Zouma and striker Loic Remy, who are both out with long-term injuries. Meanwhile, Eden Hazard is likely to return to the starting lineup after his heroics against Tottenham.
Things have changed since the last time Chelsea met Sunderland in the league this season. Chelsea hosted Sunderland in the first game after Mourinho was sacked and since then, they have risen up to the top half of the table, Hazard has finally scored, and the appointment of Antonio Conte as the next permanent manager has been made official.
The Blues have played their part in determining the fate of the Premier League trophy in recent seasons as they did last week, and could now have a big say in the relegation battle.