Forest won't be a garden of Eden

LONDON • Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has confirmed that Eden Hazard will start in the League Cup today, following his return from a broken ankle suffered in June.

The Blues are up against Nottingham Forest at home in the third round, and Conte has said that his forward needs to get as much game time as possible after coming off the bench in their previous three matches.

"I think for Eden now is the right moment to start the game and try to play the whole game," the Italian said at his pre-match conference yesterday. "I think we have managed very well his situation and in my career I was injured a lot of times and I have a bit of experience about this situation.

"Eden is ready to start. He is a top player and he improved a lot. He can continue to improve and he can become one of the best."

The positive sentiment was mutual as Hazard also heaped praise on his manager, telling the Mirror that he himself had made progress even after a week.

The 26-year-old Belgium international added: "I think he's shown not just at Chelsea but also at (Juventus) that he's a good coach and I think he has some good years ahead of him.

"We work a lot. It's not always easy in training, there are a lot of hours of training, but it bears fruit on the pitch. We play well, we won (the English Premier League title) last year. You can see that that's the key to success - work."

Chelsea forward Eden Hazard (front) fighting for the ball with Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey during an English Premier League match at Stamford Bridge last week. Hazard was a second-half substitute and is still waiting for his first start for the B
Chelsea forward Eden Hazard (front) fighting for the ball with Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey during an English Premier League match at Stamford Bridge last week. Hazard was a second-half substitute and is still waiting for his first start for the Blues this season. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Nottingham Forest may lie 10th in the second-tier Championship, but Conte is not taking the double European Cup winners (1978-79 and 1979-80) for granted.

"We are talking about a great club and a great history in England. I remember that in the past Nottingham Forest played also in the European Cup and were once the most important club in England," the 48-year-old added in his remarks reported on Chelseafc.com.

"We have a great respect for this club. I watched a lot of games and they play good football. We must pay great attention."

Today's encounter at Stamford Bridge is the fourth in a sequence of seven matches in 21 days for the Blues, and Conte has said he will stick to his squad rotation policy to get his team through this period.

"We try our best in every competition we play. It is not easy in England to face four competitions but we have to try our best," he said.

"Tomorrow is a good opportunity to give a chance to some players who maybe did not play a lot.

"I think tomorrow can be a good chance for (20-year-old midfielder) Charly Musonda and (21-year-old midfielder) Kenedy.

"For sure, we want to try to win. We want to go to the next round. But it is the same for Forest."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2017, with the headline 'Forest won't be a garden of Eden'. Print Edition | Subscribe