Hiddink: Big-match battle expected

Guus Hiddink provided an injury update on some of his attacking players and looked ahead to the visit of Manchester United on Sunday in his media conference at Cobham today.

The manager was speaking at our training ground with the first series of questions asked focusing on the fitness of his squad in the wake of a midweek fixture 48 hours ago.

'The squad is looking okay after the game against Watford,’ Hiddink replied. ‘The players have come back in and look very fit, except for Falcao and Remy. Remy will be involved next week.

'Pedro was not available then because of a groin injury but he trained well this morning and we will see how he reacts to it. I don’t think there will be big problems.

'Pato is in his pre-season. We have made a training plan which he is doing now, training at least once but most of the days twice, which means he is getting his fitness but not full fitness yet.

'He will not be in for the upcoming few games because we want to have him fit because we don’t want the risk of injury in this tough league.'

The boss, who also said no decision had been made about whether Eden Hazard will start or not, was asked for his initial assessment of Pato who has been in training for nearly a week now.

‘He is skilful, he is technically very good, and he is ambitious which is normal for me. He needs more physical fitness at the moment.

‘He played his last game on 28 November then he had a holiday so it’s a kind of pre-season for him. We like to pressure him but we must be careful not to go over the top. I think and I hope he will have time to make an impact. That’s why it’s good to have him on loan.’

Turning his attention to this weekend’s big Premier League meeting between teams who have won nine of the past 11 top-flight titles, Hiddink was keen to play down the impact he and his compatriot and counterpart Louis van Gaal will have on proceedings.

‘We must not overvalue the role of the managers and the coaches - they prepare the games and the opponent and the way we like to play. That’s it.

‘At the end the players have to execute what you are doing in training and in team meetings. We must not overvalue the battle between managers; it’s a battle between the players.

‘This is a big match. Big clubs through the years, both Manchester United and us like to compete for the title. They have underperformed and we are getting back on track a little bit.  

‘Of course I would like some more victories instead of the unbeaten draws, but the team is step by step more stable and now we hope to go to in a beautiful spring time.’