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It wasn't boring, it was competitive and tough, the Dutchman has asserted...

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink has reacted bullishly to the negativity that has surrounded his team this week in the wake of their goalless draw with Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

Many observers felt that the first leg match was a boring, sterile affair, ruined by Chelsea's perceived negative approach. Hiddink, though, disagreed, perferring to see masculine virtue in his side's grafting display.

"I have watched the DVD of the game and things were not as bad as suggested in the emotions after the game," he told his Friday press conference.

"There were some good contests, for instance between Florent Malouda and [Dani] Alves. That was normal friction but I don't think there was a lot of theatre from either side.

"There was a duel between Alex and [Thierry] Henry without the intention at all to hurt each other.

"It was a mans' match, all within the rules. There were some collisions from either side.

"Of course they were in control and dominating the game. We played defensively very well, we were well organised and I would have loved it if we could have taken a little bit more the initiative, but we played against a very disciplined team as well. They can play but under [coach Pep] Guardiola they know how to defend firmly. Toure [Yaya] tackles very well, [Eric] Abidal tackles very well. They are not afraid to make the game tough as well and on top of that they can play, so it is not easy against them.

"You can blame us for not starting the game well, but it was not anti-football."

Chelsea welcome local rivals Fulham to Stamford Bridge this weekend, and Hiddink hailed the work done at Craven Cottage this season by his opposite number there, Roy Hodgson, adding, "'He is doing a tremendous job. He is one of the older managers, like me, who knows how difficult the job is and he is showing at Fulham what he can do.

"I have met him occasionally abroad, just briefly, and I respect what he is doing and the way he is talking about football. You can see this is a man with a lot of experience and dignity."

There was also good news for the club on the injury front, with Hiddink reporting that his players were growing stronger and fitter as the campaign neared its end.

"It is always amazing when you start playing in May and players get fitter and fitter," he said.

"So I think it is a very good signal. We don't have problems with injuries unless you call [Ricardo] Carvalho and Deco, but they were out already for a period. The rest are all fit, there are just little niggles coming out of the last game but no problem for tomorrow.

"The players don't like to rest that much but there might be one or two changes in tomorrow's game regarding that. It is not that we are going to decrease the quality with the players coming in because we have some players who were on the bench recently who have the quality to do well.

"The rest of the players will be starting because we take this game very seriously against Fulham, first of all for our own public and also because Fulham have been doing very well for weeks and weeks. Then after that we prepare for Barcelona."

Zack Wilson, Goal.com

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