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Hiddink: The brakes are off

Guus Hiddink is adamant everyone’s focus is on the visit of Stoke City tomorrow and not the Champions League game with Paris Saint-Germain that follows it.

Speaking at his usual Friday press conference at Cobham this afternoon, Hiddink gave an update on two players he will be without tomorrow and another who has shone since he took over.

The first answer those journalists present wanted from our boss regarded team news, and in particular the availability of John Terry.

‘He’s not fit to start this weekend,’ responded Hiddink. ‘He’s with the physios and he’s also training but he’s not with the group yet. We’ll see how it goes for Wednesday.

‘Pedro is the same. He hasn’t practised with the group yet. He is getting treatment but also running and exercising on the pitch.’

Hiddink later said he didn’t want to take any risks with Terry and so he wouldn’t be on the bench tomorrow; instead his fitness will be assessed during training sessions at the beginning of next week.

Before then we play Stoke aiming for a fourth consecutive league victory. Hiddink stressed the significance of the fixture, not least because he thinks a good result tomorrow will give us the perfect platform from which to build for the cup matches against PSG and Everton that follow.

‘Of course we have the upcoming two games on our mind but – and it’s a big but - we take all Premier League games very seriously and we will have the same approach tomorrow.  

‘We will not allow us to make this a pre-game for Wednesday. This is not good for the team. We must stay in the dynamic of the last weeks.

‘If you put your focus too far away, even if it’s just four or seven days, it’s not good.’

Hiddink was also asked if he believed his team could finish fourth.

‘Others are knocking on the door, like West Ham are doing,’ he pointed out. ‘There are more candidates for fourth position than the teams who have lost recently.

‘Stoke are close as well, so it’s even more necessary that from our side we have a serious approach tomorrow.’

That will include a start for his first-choice striker Diego Costa who netted his 11th league goal of the season in midweek. Hiddink explained why it is hard to rest the Spanish international.

‘He is in perfect physical shape, but we also must be careful not to overload him in games. We monitor them with the data of the medical team and I can make some conclusions from that.

‘We are living in an emotional world but sometimes you have to be rational as well. I talk with him about his physical state, which is superb. There is always a danger of him doing too much, and if I share the figures with him he can be rational as well. We must let him go but sometimes I must put him on a leash.

‘He wants to play every game. It’s difficult to put a brake on him. Tomorrow he will start but maybe he will not play the full game.’