Guus Hiddink wants under-fire pair Diego Costa and Eden Hazard to send Chelsea into the Champions League quarter-finals at the expense of Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday night.
PSG’s social media team upped the ante on the eve of the last-16 second leg at Stamford Bridge with a video montage of masked super heroes titled ‘Spot the fraud’, which also included Costa, who has been playing with a protective mask due to a broken nose.
PSG boss Laurent Blanc also warned his players not to be provoked by Costa, who has a reputation for riling opponents.
Costa, available after missing last Saturday’s draw with Stoke as a precaution over a minor tendon problem, has scored 10 goals in 14 games under Hiddink, but has just one Champions League goal in two seasons and 14 games with the Blues.
“I’m very proud of him the way he’s playing and, going not over the edge, but he likes to fight in the real way of the game,” Hiddink said.
“That’s what we like. I protect him and support him when he’s doing what he has done in my period at Chelsea.
“In the Premier League he frequently is scoring now, since December, January. Let’s see and hope he can make it to the European level as well.”
Hiddink, who is without captain John Terry due to a hamstring injury, also issued a robust defence of Hazard.
The Belgium playmaker, Chelsea’s leading performer in last season’s Premier League and Capital One Cup double, has been underwhelming this term.
Hazard on the eve of the first leg suggested a move to PSG would be too good an opportunity to turn down, stoking speculation he is angling for a switch this summer.
He was substituted in the 2-1 loss at Parc des Princes, but Hiddink attributed that to his return from a groin injury.
Hiddink added: “At that time when he was playing away in Paris he was in that period just coming back from a rather severe injury.
“We are some weeks further into the league and game fitness. He can and must show what he is capable of, which is more than the away game.”
Chelsea’s only defeat since the appointment of Hiddink as interim successor to the sacked Jose Mourinho was in Paris on February 15, but John Obi Mikel’s away goal leaves the tie finely poised.
The sides are meeting for the third successive season. Chelsea won the quarter-final tie in 2014 on away goals, but were defeated at the last-16 stage in 2015 by the same method.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be determined to make an impression after missing the 2014 second leg through injury and his first-half dismissal 12 months ago at Stamford Bridge.
Ibrahimovic afterwards called Chelsea players “babies” for their role in his dismissal, believing Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers had been hounded into the decision for a challenge on Oscar which was more clumsy than malicious.
“From the last game here I never saw something like that before from mature players,” Ibrahimovic said.
“Hopefully I will stay on the pitch longer than the last time to have a possibility to do things I’m good at. (But) revenge, absolutely not. What happened in the past happened in the past.”