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Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink hit out at Watford defender Juan Carlos Paredes for trying to get Diego Costa sent off in Wednesday night's goalless draw at Watford.
Watford right-back Paredes and Costa were involved in a petty exchange which saw both players booked by referee Mike Dean for their amateur dramatics.
Hiddink felt Paredes was trying to antagonise his short-tempered striker.
The Blues boss said: "It was very clear, because we were very close. It was just 10 yards from our bench.
"Paredes punched Diego in his back. After that they stumbled. Then Paredes brought his hands to his head and Diego was nowhere near his head.
"This is something we must not do. It's provocation to get someone (sent) off the pitch.
"Happily the referee and the assistant referee saw it."
Watford captain Troy Deeney took a dim view of the incident, too.
"It's new-age football," he said on BT Sport 1. "There's a little touch and everyone's rolling around. It's just handbags. In Sunday League that wouldn't happen because you'd be laughed at.
"I don't like to see it, and we'll have a word with Paredes on our side."
Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores, who managed Costa at Atletico Madrid, spoke to the striker at the end of the game.
Asked what he had said, the Hornets boss said: "That I love him."
On the incident, he added: "Contact in the Premier League is very normal. This kind of player always is looking to find contact in every single challenge.
"Paredes resisted very well. He tried to play, he tried to defend very well.
"It's nothing new. I understand Costa because I coached Costa and every single play he wants to challenge them.
"Paredes was very hard, very strong also, but nothing happened. Nothing strange."
Hiddink praised Costa for keeping his cool.
"There was no need to calm him down," Hiddink said.
"At half-time he was very controlled. He said I'll go and focus on what I have to do."
Costa came close to winning the contest for Chelsea, but saw his 88th-minute header saved by Heurelho Gomes.
Hiddink, who managed Gomes at PSV Eindhoven, said: "Gomes was man of the match and I think he highly deserves it.
"He made some tremendous saves in the last period of the game in which we were threatening to go for the win.
"We deserved to win. We would've loved to have had the three points here."
Hiddink remains unbeaten in his second caretaker spell, extending his unbeaten run to nine matches.
But five of Hiddink's seven Premier League games have been draws, including against Watford on Boxing Day, leaving the Blues 15 points adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal.
And it is increasingly likely there will be no European football at Chelsea next term.
Hiddink, with tongue firmly in cheek, said: "We need 3.1 (points) average to get there, which is very difficult."
Captain John Terry received the acclaim of Chelsea fans throughout after announcing last Sunday that he will not be granted a contract extension.
The Premier League champions maintain Terry could yet still be offered a new deal to take him into a 19th season.
"He got a huge reception, which is good," Hiddink added.
"John is doing his job already in the time I'm now here. He's performing very well. He is of value for us, for the team."
Chelsea host Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday in what will likely be Terry's 698th game for the club and supporters will be expected to make their feelings clear to the club's hierarchy over the captain's future.
The match will pit Hiddink against his compatriot Louis van Gaal, the United manager.
"We will see each other, shake hands and we have a nice clash," Hiddink said.
"It will be a terrific game. These two giants will make hopefully a spectacle."