Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink pleaded with the Premier League to introduce Friday night football in an effort to maximise his side’s chances of Champions League success.
Hiddink’s team face Paris Saint-Germain in the French capital on Tuesday in a tough last-16, first-leg match-up having played on Saturday evening when they romped to a 5-1 win over Newcastle United.
The veteran Dutch coach believes playing their league fixture on a Friday would have provided a crucial extra 24 hours to prepare for such a high-profile European adventure.
It would also allow time for injuries to heal, especially in the case of skipper John Terry who suffered a “small muscular problem” in Saturday’s game at Stamford Bridge.
Terry was involved in a collision with Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic and eventually had to go off after 37 minutes.
“Midweek is already Tuesday, so we just have two days to recover. Teams need at least three days, but we don’t have that. We’ll see what the outcome of Terry’s scan is tomorrow (Sunday),” said Hiddink.
“Tomorrow will be an examination with John, who might — hopefully — have a small muscular problem, but it would be better to have three or four days’ rest. It’s his hamstring, but tomorrow there will be a scan and I will know more.”
Hiddink added: “We have to consider when the Premier League clubs have to play in Europe, if they can play on an earlier date to gain another day’s recovery.
“The second day after an intense performance is a day for rest and small recovery. But we have to prepare on that second day. I’m strongly in favour, if you have to play on Tuesday, then we should play on Friday. I know there are commercial reasons not to do so, but sports have to be on top of that.”
Hiddink admitted that PSG are favourites, but that his team’s mindset has been bolstered by Saturday’s commanding 5-1 win — his first at home in the league, as Chelsea remain unbeaten under the Dutch manager since he took over from Jose Mourinho in December.
“Last year PSG kicked Chelsea out of the Champions League. They are favourites. They have a good team. They have shown that. But if you see they haven’t lost since August, that’s a tremendous record. But we have to go there and play with the confidence we showed today,” he said.
On Saturday, Diego Costa opened the floodgates with an early goal before Pedro’s double and further strikes from Willian and Bertrand Traore sealed Chelsea’s biggest league win of a traumatic campaign.
While Chelsea go to Paris, Newcastle will instead use an 18-day spell without a match to have a training camp in La Manga.
Manager Steve McClaren defended that decision after a match in which he claimed he was not embarrassed by the nature of the heavy defeat.
“That’s been questioned. It could be pouring down where we’re going,” said McClaren after his team slipped back into the bottom three.
“We wanted to refocus the boys, get the injured together, get some good fitness and organisation work in, and to arrange a game in that 18-day period.
“We have to dust ourselves down and be realistic, and can’t let this derail us as much as people want it to. There’s enough fight in that dressing room, and we have to demonstrate it.”