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Zola defends Chelsea’s treatment of Callum Hudson-Odoi

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Assistant coach Gianfranco Zola refuted suggestions that Callum Hudson-Odoi is not getting enough opportunities at Chelsea.

The 18-year-old winger was keen to seal a transfer to Bayern Munich during the January transfer window due to a lack of regular chances at Chelsea this season.

But the Blues held their ground on Hudson-Odoi, who is under contract until June 2020, and blocked any potential move to Bayern after turning down three reported bids in the region of £35m.

Hudson-Odoi has only tasted 74 minutes of Premier League action at Stamford Bridge with the majority of his appearances coming in cup competitions.

And a six-minute cameo in their narrow 2-1 Europa League over Swedish side Malmo FF has done little to improve matters for the teenager, who has only started twice in his last seven appearances for Chelsea.

But Zola insists Hudson-Odoi is being given more opportunities than most 18-year-olds at top clubs.

“Sorry but I disagree with this,” said Zola on the club website.

“He is always on the edge of the team.

“As soon as there is an opportunity he plays, sometimes from the beginning. The manager is giving plenty of reasons for him to feel involved and wanted.

“There are not many 18-year-olds at top clubs in Europe who are playing as much as him. On top of that, he is a player that we appreciate and believe is growing up.

“He has a bright future at this club. All of the coaching group likes him. You need to understand he is surrounded by top players and you have to work hard to be better than them.

“That’s what we want from him, to make sure he keeps improving because he can do better.”

The Italian, who scored 71 goals in 292 games for Chelsea as a striker during his playing days, was pleased to see Olivier Giroud get on the scoresheet against Malmo on Thursday night.

“I was pleased with the goal Olivier Giroud scored, he played very well in the second half and I’m pleased for him,” added Zola.

“Since [Gonzalo] Higuain came he’s been left out a bit but he’s a player who works hard and never complains so I was pleased see him score and play well.”

Chelsea will host Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Monday for a FA Cup fifth-round tie.

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 29: Olivier Giroud of Chelsea celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal during the UEFA Europa League Group L match between Chelsea and PAOK at Stamford Bridge on November 29, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)