Guus Hiddink on Eden Hazard’s chance to recover at Chelsea: ‘Step up to the next level’

With Manchester City set to field a weakened line-up with their focus on the Champions League in the FA Cup fifth-round match on Sunday, it's Eden Hazard's chance to get something going at Chelsea again.

Chelsea's Eden Hazard shown during the Champions League last 16 first leg match against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday. Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP / February 16, 2016
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Guus Hiddink has called on Eden Hazard to step up and reclaim the authority he asserted at Chelsea last season ahead of a golden chance to find confidence against a likely depleted Manchester City side in the FA Cup on Sunday.

Chelsea interim manager Hiddink says he has talked with Hazard about raising his game back to the level of a season ago, when the Belgian – mired in a long slump – was the runaway Premier League player of the year.

With Man City prioritising the Champions League and being denied a request to move the fixture to accommodate for European play, Chelsea are set to face second-string opposition.

That, says Hiddink, means it is just the time for Hazard to resurrect his play, which has been a shadow of the dynamic force that helped Chelsea win the English title last season. He was substituted during Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

“It’s not about just attitude,” Hiddink said. “He was in a difficult situation, but he has to step up. He knows that.

“We had our talks with him about how to step up to the next level. That’s what his wish is.”

Hiddink has also warned Chelsea not to take victory for granted after Manuel Pellegrini vowed to go through with his threat to send out a weakened Man City team in the FA Cup fifth round.

With City due to make the long flight to Ukraine on Monday ahead of their Champions League last 16 first leg tie at Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday, Pellegrini had pleaded with the FA not to bow to demands from television networks to move the Chelsea game from its original Saturday date.

But Pellegrini's request was ignored and City, who also have to prepare for next weekend's League Cup final against Liverpool, have been forced to head to Stamford Bridge 24 hours later than they wanted.

In response, the City coach has promised to field a starting line-up comprised mostly of untested youngsters.

“We always try to play with a strong team in every competition, every competition is important, especially the FA Cup,” Pellegrini said.

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“We are very interested in continuing in this cup. But I said a couple of weeks ago if you want to protect the English team in the Champions League the game was played on Saturday.

“For different reasons we couldn’t play that day. We must prioritise the Champions League, so we’ll see what is the best team we can put on the pitch for the FA Cup.”

At first glance, it appears Pellegrini has handed Chelsea a gift-wrapped place in the quarter-finals because Hiddink, whose side played their Champions League last 16 first leg tie against Paris Saint-Germain earlier this week, can afford to send out a stronger team this weekend.

But the club’s interim manager believes the City kids could pose a significant threat because they will be so motivated to make the most of a rare moment in the spotlight.

Hiddink is also concerned City have been stung by damaging successive defeats against Premier League title rivals Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur and will be desperate for a morale-boosting win.

“A big team always reacts. We are warned. We’ll take ourselves and them very seriously,” said Hiddink, who will be without injured captain John Terry.

“Hypothetically, if City play a younger side they will go to 120 per cent effort so it does not always work in your favour. Let’s see what happens Sunday.”

Despite Hiddink’s caution, what appeared at the time of the draw to be the tie of the round could be transformed into a formality by Pellegrini’s stance.

The Chilean has been accused of disrespecting the famous old competition, but he knows City as a club are now more determined to achieve success in Europe rather than a first FA Cup triumph since 2011.

Pellegrini, who will be replaced by Pep Guardiola at the end of the season, would also prefer to leave with the Champions League trophy as a reminder of his talents.

And he points to a lengthy injury list as another reason why he will rest the likes of Joe Hart, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero.

“The priority is usually the next game but maybe we are going to make an exception now because of the amount of players we have injured,” Pellegrini added.

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