Football: Hazard sick of defending

Chelsea's Eden Hazard training in London ahead of their trip to Madrid to face Atletico in the Champions League tonight. While he feels that not every player should have to defend as everyone has a specific role, he understands that tracking back is
Chelsea's Eden Hazard training in London ahead of their trip to Madrid to face Atletico in the Champions League tonight. While he feels that not every player should have to defend as everyone has a specific role, he understands that tracking back is necessary to some extent under Antonio Conte's style.PHOTO: REUTERS

Belgian risks antagonising manager Conte when he admits that he hates tracking back

MADRID • Eden Hazard risks incurring the wrath of Chelsea manager Antonio Conte when he admits that he hates tracking back to help out in defence.

The Belgian playmaker told France Football that that it is "pointless" for all players to defend, claiming it tires him out towards the end of matches, but understands that tracking back is necessary under Conte's tactics.

"You don't need that. Don't tell Conte, but you can write that it's pointless. If you defend too much, you tire yourself out," he said.

"If I've spent the whole game defending, forget about me being useful after the 60th minute, and I'm quite fit."

Hazard is aware that he could easily find himself on the bench if he fails to track back. But he countered: "There are people who are meant to defend, while others are there to attack."

His comments will not go down well with Conte, who is taking a cautious approach in trying to manage the Belgian's playing time as the forward returns from a fractured ankle, as Chelsea prepare for tonight's Champions League game against Atletico Madrid.

NOT MY MAIN JOB

Don't tell Conte, but you can write that it's pointless. If you defend too much, you tire yourself out. If I've spent the whole game defending, forget about me being useful after the 60th minute, and I'm quite fit.

EDEN HAZARD, Chelsea forward, who is reluctant to take on defensive duties.

After making his first start of the season in the League Cup last week, Hazard was named as a substitute for Chelsea's 4-0 English Premier League win over Stoke on Saturday.

"I think now Eden is improving a lot and for sure he's in contention for Atletico Madrid," Conte said. "After a bad injury and surgery you need time. He's almost ready to play, but if I make this decision, it will be because I'm comfortable with it.

"I think we are managing him very well. Other players are also very important for us and now it's important to be sure he's ready."

He can afford to bring Hazard back slowly because of the fine form of striker Alvaro Morata, who arrived from Real Madrid at the start of the season in search of regular first-team action and has netted six league goals in six appearances.

"Don't forget his previous experience - he didn't play a lot with Juventus and Real Madrid but now he has a great chance to show that he is a really good striker, a fantastic striker," Conte said. "He's very young, only 24 years old, and I think this is important for Chelsea. I think now he's involved totally in our style of football, in our idea. He's very strong and he showed he's a really good, complete player."

However, according to goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, Morata is unlikely to get a warm reception today at Atletico Madrid because of his past association with Real.

  • 1

    Starts Eden Hazard has made for Chelsea this season, in last week's 5-1 League Cup win over Nottingham Forest.

    82

    Minutes the Belgium has played in four substitute appearance, three in the Premier League and one in the Champions League.

Courtois, who spent three seasons on loan at Real's rivals Atletico, said his team-mate will have to prepare for a "big game" at the Estadio Metropolitano.

"He will get a different one (reception) from me. Alvaro played a lot of games against Atletico. I think he scored, so for him it will be a big game against his rivals," the Belgian told Chelsea's website. "For me it will be more friendly but between the 90 minutes we are playing there will be rivalry for me as well because they want their team to win."

He is looking forward to meet striker Diego Costa, who recently left Chelsea to rejoin Atletico after falling out with Conte.

Costa will be eligible to play for Atletico from Jan 2 when the Spanish transfer window opens and the club's transfer ban ends.

"He is a very good friend and it will be nice to see him there. I am happy that until the New Year we don't have to face him and I hope we continue in the Champions League," Courtois said.

Chelsea beat Qarabag 6-0 in their Champions League Group C opener while Atletico were held 0-0 at Roma.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2017, with the headline 'Hazard sick of defending'. Print Edition | Subscribe