Hazard a 'major doubt' to face Atletico
LONDON -- Eden Hazard is still a “major doubt” for Chelsea’s Champions League semifinal first leg against Atletico Madrid, and will definitely miss Saturday’s home match against Sunderland, assistant manager Steve Holland has revealed.
The 23-year-old was named on the PFA Player of the Year shortlist on Friday but Jose Mourinho’s side will again be unable to call on him this weekend, as the Belgian will miss his second game since suffering a calf injury in the 3-1 Champions League win over Paris Saint-Germain.
“Eden Hazard won’t be fit for [Saturday], but everyone else trained, so we’re not in bad shape,” Holland told Chelsea's prematch news conference.
“I wouldn’t say he’s definitely out [of the Atletico game] at this stage, but the fact that he hasn’t yet trained with the group would suggest he still remains a doubt.”
Holland also believes that the vast trophy experience across the squad -- in terms of both personnel and manager -- could be crucial in successfully balancing the dual-challenge of the Champions League and Premier League. Next week will pose a particular problem, as Chelsea face the crunch game with Liverpool in between legs against Atletico Madrid.
“Experience is always vital in any competition and we have a good blend in our squad,” Holland said.
“We have many players that haven’t been in this situation before but also a good group that have. We also have a very experienced manager who has been in this situation before, and it's good to have that experience at this stage.
“We've got the circumstances we have; this is a club used to playing a lot of matches at this stage of the season. Last season we got to the final of the Europa League which was 15 extra matches, the year before we had 13 for the Champions League.
“We're in a situation we've been in in before. When Roberto was manager in 2012 we played Spurs at Tottenham on a Sunday evening, where the game could have gone to penalties. We then played Barcelona in the Champions League on the Wednesday then Arsenal at the Emirates for a vital game for fourth, then Barcelona at the Nou Camp.
“We realised to have any chance in the Nou Camp, to have the energy required to get over the line in that tie, something had to give. We made eight changes for Arsenal, we still drew the game, but something had to give.
"As you know we just managed to scrape over the line in the Nou Camp. It's a really challenging period emotionally; you've got to have experienced it to appreciate what it takes out of the players.
“That makes the challenge more difficult, but it's the way it is, it's something we've done before, we've got a good squad and we've got to do it again.”