Other than ever-presents Fabregas, Ivanovic, Azpilicueta, and Mikel (under Hiddink in any case), Cheslea's starting lineup on Saturday was a hodge-podge of backups, youngsters, and forgotten men. No less than three players ended up making their debuts, Matt Miazga starting in defense, Alexandre Pato coming on halfway through the first half after Rémy got himself injured (again!), and academy grad Jake Clarke-Salter playing the final quarter of an hour as our latest left back.
Meanwhile, Loftus-Cheek not only started but played the whole game and Kenedy (and his protective mask) got another shot as well, though only lasted the first 45. All-in-all, it was almost a surreal, preseason-esque lineup, except we were playing an actual league game. Then again, Aston Villa count as Premier League in name only.
Regardless, Hiddink was happy to be able to hand out these opportunities, even though they came at the expense of a few injuries.
"It was good to see [Pato] come in, of course the expectation was for him to come in earlier but we had to give him a pre-season. It wasn't the toughest Premier League game but we are happy to see him play and we will see how he copes. The players see him suffering by training with the first team and then doing extra work so they are happy, they recognise his situation and it was a relief for him to get his first goal."
"John [Terry] had a little problem in his Achilles tendon. Gary [Cahill] came from the England v Holland game and had an injury. The situation was surprising for me, he also had a tendon problem. He didn't play but he came back with an injury, we'll see what happens in the next few days."
"It's good to see Loftus-Cheek, Clarke-Salter and Miazga coming in. We cannot win anything, which makes it easier. It's good to see how they deal with the pressure. I always like to bring in youngsters and now we have the rest of the season to do it more frequently."
"It would be nice to be unbeaten until the end of the season. When I bring young kids in there is a bigger risk of failure, but I prefer that."
-Guus Hiddink; source: Chelsea FC
Keep this up and we might just "win" a place in the Europa League qualifiers. No wait, there I go hoping again.