Chelsea's Eden Hazard 'can score 40 goals' this season - Maurizio Sarri
LONDON -- Maurizio Sarri said Eden Hazard can score as many as 40 goals this season if he focuses fully on the final third of the pitch after his hat trick propelled Chelsea to a 4-1 victory over Cardiff City on Saturday.
Hazard struck twice in seven first-half minutes to put Chelsea in control at Stamford Bridge after Sol Bamba's volley gave Cardiff the lead, and he converted a penalty 10 minutes from time to make sure of the win before substitute Willian curled in a late fourth.
Another man-of-the-match performance took Hazard's tally to five goals and two assists in five Premier League appearances this season -- an even more impressive feat considering he has completed 90 minutes only twice -- and Sarri believes he is capable of becoming even more prolific.
"I thought Hazard was one of the best players in Europe, but now I am changing my mind that he is the best," Sarri said at his postmatch news conference. "I think Hazard can improve more. I think that he can spend less energy than now at 50 or 60 metres to the opposite goal."
Asked to clarify what he meant, Sarri said: "When we have the ball in our half, he touches the ball five or six times, so his actions show he spends a lot of energy and [he] can have more energy in the last 25 metres. I think he can score 30 or 35 goals.
"I think he can do it. I told him in the last two days because Eden only arrived two days ago. After the international [break], I prefer to give the players one day off. I have spoken to him in the last two days, and yesterday, I told him for me he can score 40 goals. But spend less energy far from the goal and play in the last 25 metres."
Chelsea's fifth victory from their first five Premier League matches took them top of the Premier League table on goal difference, but the result did not shake Sarri's conviction that his team remain a level below genuine title contenders.
"I cannot change my mind for one match," he said. "I think that at this moment Liverpool and Manchester City are another step [ahead] than us. But I think we can improve.
"My target is to be the best team in England, but not in one month -- maybe one season, maybe a little more. Our target is this. But at the moment, I repeat, for me, in my opinion, Liverpool and Manchester City are better than us."
Cardiff took the lead thanks to a dangerous free kick and worried Chelsea's defence with set-pieces throughout the match. Sarri said his team has the most room for improvement at the defensive end.
"I think in this moment, we are very dangerous in the offensive phase but we are not so solid as I want in the defensive phase," Sarri said. "Today we knew that this opponent is very strong in the set pieces but we were not ready to answer. We need to improve, but we are able to and can improve very quickly."