Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink said he does not think his players have been informed that Antonio Conte will succeed him as manager.
The Dutchman spoke in his press conference ahead of Stoke City's visit on Saturday and was asked for the latest on Italy boss Conte, following Corriere Dello Sport's (h/t the Mirror) report Blues owner Roman Abramovich had told the players of his impending arrival. Per ESPN FC's Liam Twomey, he said:
Hiddink asked if Abramovich has told Chelsea players that Conte is coming in: "I don't know but to my knowledge I don’t think so." #cfc— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) March 4, 2016
Conte is widely tipped to take over at Chelsea in the summer, though Hiddink's former assistant Ray Wilkins has backed him to keep the job on a permanent basis, per PA Sport (h/t Sky Sports).
When asked about his own future, he dismissed the idea he would be the right man to stay on at Chelsea, per the club's official Twitter feed:
Hiddink: 'I'm here for a short period and the club has to go into a new era where it's not about short spells.' #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 4, 2016
The prospect of a European Super League has been discussed heavily in the wake of Alan Nixon's exclusive in the Sun on Tuesday, with England's top clubs reportedly having met to discuss the possibility.
Hiddink disagrees with the notion of it, though, as it would be unfair on less illustrious teams who qualify for the Champions League. Per Matt Lewis of Get West London, he said:
It is more of a brainstorm of elite clubs talking about this. I’m not in the details, but I think we must all be careful to go into exclusivity when teams like Leicester [City] are mixing in.
They have the full right to be recognised, they are next contestants for next years Champions League.
I hope so (that big teams are spooked). That’s real sport. What sport is all about—lower clubs knocking on the door.
I don’t know what has been discussed—but football is for all.
Per Lewis, a Chelsea spokesperson added: "The meeting did happen, but it was predominantly about the International Champions Cup, as is natural. A European super league or breakaway league was not discussed."
Returning to his own side, Hiddink praised the way his players have improved since he took charge in December but admitted finishing in a Champions League place will still be difficult:
Hiddink says the players have responded well since he came in and have provided answers with their performances. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 4, 2016
Hiddink on Chelsea's top four hopes: "Others are knocking on the door. There are more candidates for fourth than teams losing recently" #cfc— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) March 4, 2016
The Blues have improved enormously under the 69-year-old and have won three Premier League games in a row, though they still find themselves eight points off fourth place.
Hiddink also gave the latest on the Blues' injury situation ahead of the Stoke game:
Hiddink says John Terry and Pedro are not fit to start tomorrow's game. Terry is unlikely to make the bench. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 4, 2016
The manager had previously hinted Diego Costa might be rested for the game but confirmed the Spain international will be starting at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, though he may not play 90 minutes with Paris Saint-Germain looming. Per Lewis, he said:
Maybe during the game, but he won’t have full game. We monitor them with the data. He is in perfect physical shape, but we must not give him an overload in games, but he is difficult to stop.
He wants to play every game—but I must be careful with that. Tomorrow he will start.
There is always a danger of going over, If I share those figures with him, he can be rational too. Sometimes I have to put him on the leash.
Big clubs know you must have a regular season, then in March/April everyone is queuing up, the rewards are there. You have to be there on top as a team, and as a player.
Should Costa be risked at all?
Costa scored Chelsea's vital second goal against Norwich City in midweek. After struggling under Jose Mourinho he has scored or assisted in every game he's played in since Boxing Day, save two.
The striker's physical presence will be useful for Chelsea against the Potters on Saturday, but he will be equally vital for the Blues to overturn their 2-1 deficit against PSG in the Champions League, so don't be surprised if he's substituted fairly early, especially if the game has already been wrapped up.