Chelsea vs Man United - Hudson-Odoi is 'always on the edge of the team', insists Zola

Posted Saturday, February 16, 2019 by PA

Chelsea vs Man United - Hudson-Odoi is 'always on the edge of the team', insists Zola

Gianfranco Zola insists Chelsea are providing Callum Hudson-Odoi with “plenty of reasons to feel wanted”, despite the player’s lack of first-team football.

Winger Hudson-Odoi is unsettled at Stamford Bridge and handed in a transfer request last month following a £35million bid from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

The 18-year-old, whose contract expires in 2020, has been restricted to just 19 minutes of senior action since the close of the transfer window and is still awaiting his first Premier League start.

His head may also have been turned by seeing England forward Jadon Sancho, who is around seven months older, thriving in Germany with league leaders Borussia Dortmund.

But Blues assistant boss Zola is adamant Hudson-Odoi is appreciated by the west London club, while pointing out that few players of his tender age regularly represent Europe’s top clubs.

Asked if Chelsea’s coaching staff had a sense of urgency to make the player feel valued in the aftermath of Bayern’s interest, Zola replied: “I disagree on that. He’s always on the edge of the team.

“As soon as there is an opportunity, he plays. Sometimes from the beginning. Sometimes he comes on.

“The manager is giving him plenty of reasons to feel involved and wanted. I want to stress this: there aren’t many 18-year-olds in Europe playing as many games as he is. There might be one or two.

“He’s playing. And, on top of that, he’s a player we appreciate and we believe is growing up.

“He has a bright future in this club, the whole coaching group like him.

“Please, you need to understand that he’s surrounded by top players. You have to work hard to be better than them, and that’s what we want.

“We want him to play but also keep improving. He can still do better than he’s doing.”

Chelsea face Manchester United in the FA Cup on Monday, when the Red Devils will be without Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial.

Lingard was withdrawn shortly before the interval against Paris St Germain in midweek because of a hamstring injury, while Martial did not reappear for the second half due to a groin problem.

In the pair’s absence, the Ligue 1 champions scored twice to secure a 2-0 win in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 encounter that handed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his first defeat as United’s interim manager.

The Norwegian now expects Lingard and Martial to be sidelined until the start of March as he said: “I think they’ll be out for two to three weeks.”

Solskjaer was not too downcast as he spoke to preview his side’s fifth-round clash at Stamford Bridge, insisting the injuries present opportunities for the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez.

Both high-profile forwards have slipped down the pecking order under Solskjaer, who hopes teenage attackers Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes could also advance their cases for first-team roles in the upcoming weeks.

Solskjaer said: “It’s a chance for anyone who plays. If it’s Alexis or Romelu who starts, or if it’s Chongy or Angel.

“Anthony and Jesse have done very well for us, they’re vital in the attacking part with their attributes and their pace.

“But then again with Rom and Alexis, they’ve got different skill sets so they will be able to show what they can do.”

Solskjaer also lamented an injury to 17-year-old Academy player Mason Greenwood.

He added: “You’re looking at young players. We’re thinking ‘OK Mason Greenwood, now’s your time to step in’ and he’s injured, unfortunately.

“He’s out for a couple of weeks as well. That’s just the way the luck goes. Mason will get his chance later on.”

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