Guus Hiddink has become the latest manager to criticise the scheduling of the FA Cup after Chelsea’s injury concerns worsened during Saturday’s 2-1 Premier League victory at Southampton.
Pedro was substituted in only the sixth minute after suffering a hamstring injury, joining Kurt Zouma, Radamel Falcao, Alexandre Pato and potentially John Terry in remaining unavailable for a defining point in Chelsea’s season.
They face Norwich on Tuesday evening followed by Stoke on Saturday in the Premier League – Terry will most likely miss the former – before the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain and an FA Cup sixth-round tie with Everton on 12 March.
Hiddink, whose domestic unbeaten run at Chelsea extended to 13 games following goals from Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabregas, said: “We have a tight schedule. Then, surprisingly, the Everton game was put on a Saturday instead of a Sunday. Normally we should have played Liverpool on the Sunday. I don’t know who has decided that, all of a sudden... It was astonishing that people could change the kick-off time.
“We have PSG on Wednesday night. Hopefully, it doesn’t go into extra time. The players, not just Chelsea players, need time when the intensity of the league is like this. The medical people at the FA and the Premier League should make this known as well. We have to protect the players.”
Sam Allardyce, the Sunderland manager, admits the pressure is on ahead of tomorrow’s match against Crystal Palace. Allardyce’s side missed the chance to climb out of the relegation zone when they lost 1-0 at West Ham United on Saturday.
“We must hope that if we continue to play like that we’ll get the victories we need very quickly,” he said. “We’ve made a massive pressure game for ourselves on Tuesday when we play Palace at home, then it’s Southampton away. We have to pick points up in both of those because after that we don’t play for two weeks.”
The Stoke City manager, Mark Hughes, is pleased Marko Arnautovic is concentrating on his football, rather than becoming sidetracked by contract talks.
Arnautovic’s representatives have been in negotiations with the club for some time about extending the his stay at the Britannia Stadium. On Saturday, the Austrian, whose existing deals runs until the summer of 2017, scored both goals, the first from the penalty spot, in a 2-1 home win against Aston Villa.
“I think he’s just prepared to play his football and let other people have conversations about [his contract]. When the time comes he will sit down,” Hughes said.
The Watford head coach, Quique Sanchez Flores, believes his side can capitalise on Manchester United’s hectic fixture list when they visit Old Trafford on Wednesday. Flores, whose side drew 0-0 at home to Bournemouth, said: “[United] have a lot of targets in this moment and play a lot of matches. For us it is an opportunity to have points.”