Chelsea aren't pushing Eden Hazard too hard in his recovery - Hiddink
LONDON -- Guus Hiddink has dismissed suggestions that Chelsea are pushing Eden Hazard too hard and said the struggling Belgian is giving 100 percent to get back to where he wants to be.
Hazard has been a shadow of the player who fired Chelsea to the Premier League title with 14 goals and nine assists last season, failing to score in his first 24 club appearances in all competitions as the Blues' title defence crumbled into ruin and Jose Mourinho was sacked before the turn of the year.
Since Hiddink's arrival, Hazard has been further hampered by groin and hip problems, but sympathy from Chelsea supporters has been limited due to a perceived lack of effort and an interview last month with Le Parisien in which the 25-year-old refused to rule out a summer move to Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid.
In an interview with Belgian newspaper Le Soir on Friday, Hazard's father Thierry insisted his son has no intention of leaving Stamford Bridge while claiming that the Blues were forcing their star winger to play through injury.
But Hiddink disagrees. The Dutch manager has already declared Hazard available to face Everton in Saturday's FA Cup quarterfinal at Goodison Park despite the Belgian's request to be substituted after Chelsea crashed out of the Champions League to PSG on Wednesday.
Asked if he thinks Chelsea are pushing Hazard too hard, Hiddink replied: "I don't think so because we talk with the players as well and measure them. We have a system that tells us when players are coming into fatigue and the risk of injury is higher.
"We experienced that with Pedro -- he was working very hard but a little bit of fatigue. Eden also had this problem a few weeks ago when coming back from his injury, going into what we call the red zone.
"But now that risk is not very big anymore. He can work hard without having a risk of going into a big injury."
Asked what it would take to get Hazard back to his best, Hiddink replied: "Most of the time it's getting them more into the feeling of spontaneous action. Don't think too much, go in and do what you're good at.
"We try not to overthink and overact. But of course getting top fit will help. I will always support him when his effort is 100 percent and so far his effort to get where he wants to be is 100 percent."
Criticism of Hazard has centred just as much on his demeanour as on his lack of productivity, and the Belgian was heavily condemned in some quarters for choosing to swap shirts with PSG star Angel Di Maria at half-time of Wednesday's match.
But Hiddink insists that Hazard's body language is no indicator of his level of commitment.
"Everybody has his own charisma," the Chelsea interim boss added. "If you see Diego Costa he is very outspoken -- when he's angry you see that he is angry.
"Eden is a little bit of a different character, a little bit more introverted. He doesn't show what he really [feels]. He's a different person with different expressions, but it doesn't mean that he's not involved.
"Sometimes we like to see a little bit more expression, and when it's more obvious we accept it a bit more easily.
"He is committed so that's why I defend him. He is also concerned about delivering more. It's not attitude. I hate when players get a bit indifferent. I protect players when they are trying to force themselves to the limit and that's where we are trying to get him."
Chelsea have been handed a further fitness boost with the news that Radamel Falcao is back in full training as he steps up his recovery from a very serious thigh injury sustained in December.
Hiddink revealed that the Colombia international is now in position to compete for minutes with Loic Remy and January loan arrival Alexandre Pato, but reiterated that youngster Bertrand Traore is now his preferred alternative to Diego Costa.
"Falcao is now in training for more than a week, growing in his physical fitness," Hiddink confirmed. "He was out for a long time but so far with increasing training intensity he has not had a setback. That's encouraging for him first and for us as well.
Pato is in the same [situation] but it's the competition. I want to have a fair judgment on all the players in the striker position, which is now different to what it was when Pato came in.
"At that time we didn't have Remy, we didn't have Falcao and we didn't know where Traore was. Traore made - coming in [as a substitute] better than starting, to be honest - his goals and he developed himself quickly.
"I want to have a fair judgement on their performances, not just in games but in training as well. There is a kind of hierarchy of who is knocking on the door to replace Diego as No.1, or added to him when we want to play two [strikers]."