Football

Hiddink: Barca have strength in depth

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Guus Hiddink does not believe Champions League opponents Barcelona will be significantly weaker without their two first-choice central defenders.

Rafael Marquez and Carles Puyol will both miss the return leg of the semi-final at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night. Marquez is out of the season after damaging knee ligaments in the goalless first leg at the Nou Camp while Puyol's yellow card means he is suspended.

"They can replace, rather easily, the two players," said Hiddink.

"If you see what happened with Marquez, it was nothing to do with Chelsea. "Normally, some like to create an atmosphere of: 'Look, injured players, the opposition must be at fault.'

"But they are well equipped, not just in their way of playing but also in their double positioning in many positions in the team.

"They can, rather easily, bring up a team which is able to play well. It won't make a huge difference."

Meanwhile, Hiddink is glowing in his praise of young midfielder John Mikel Obi. The Nigerian was outstanding in their draw with Barcelona when he shared a holding role with Michael Ballack.

"I'm impressed with his development," said Hiddink. "He's still young, a very strong guy.

"We've practised with him to improve him. He's showing that he's coachable. He's got a lot of potential, physically, and he's growing tactically into the job he has in midfield.

"It's good to see a young player open to improvement and not thinking that, because he's at a big club, he's made it."

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Topics:
Football
Chelsea
Premier League
John Obi Mikel
Michael Ballack

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