Real Madrid’s Hazard, Casemiro Test Positive For COVID-19

 

 

Real Madrid duo of Eden Hazard and Casemiro have tested positive for COVID-19 after being among the group of players and staff tested at Valdebebas on Friday morning.

The club released a statement in this regard which read

“Real Madrid C.F. informs that our players, Casemiro and Eden Hazard, have tested positive in the COVID-19 tests undertaken yesterday, Friday, in the morning.”

“All of the other first-team players and coaching staff, as well as the club employees who work directly with the squad tested negative in yesterday’s tests. Meanwhile, all of them, apart from Casemiro and Hazard, once again tested negative in the antigen tests taken this morning.” the message further read.

Both the players will go into self-isolation at home and complete their quarantine period.

Hazard and Casemiro are expected to miss the La Liga encounter against Valencia on Sunday.

Hazard To Make Real Madrid Debut In La Liga

 

 

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said Friday that big-money summer signing Eden Hazard has been passed fit and will make his long-awaited La Liga debut against Levante on Saturday.

“We all want to see Eden,” said Zidane. “There’s a lot of pressure on him, a lot of expectation. But he is ready and that is the most important thing.”

Hazard was expected to make his debut in Vigo in the opening round in mid-August after joining Madrid for an initial 100 million euros from Chelsea in June.

But the Belgian pulled up with a thigh strain at the club’s training base in Valdebebas and had to sit out the first three weeks of the season during which Real struggled, collecting one win and two draws.

Zidane, however, called for patience as Hazard finds his feet again.

“We have to go gently,” he said. “He (Hazard) was injured for three weeks, he has been back for a week.

“We have seven games in 21 days and we will have to go gently. It will be up to me to keep an eye on his minutes and his playing time, because we need him over a long period, for several matches, not for one.”

Hazard’s return is timely for Madrid who also start their Champions League campaign against Paris Saint-Germain next week, especially as Luka Modric was ruled out this week with a groin strain.

“The season starts now,” said Zidane. “We have seven games in 21 days and I think that’s what we need, anyway, to play, make matches, compete… that’s what players want.”

The Frenchman also shrugged off criticism of the team following their indifferent start to the season.

“The comments, everything that is said, that’s not going to change,” he said.

“We know what we want to change within (the team), we will do everything to do things well. Enough talk, we have perform on the pitch.”

Another midfielder, Fede Valverde, is also unavailable with a muscular problem in his left leg. The 21-year-old, who has played only eight minutes for Real this season, suffered the injury playing for Uruguay.

In addition to Modric and Hazard, James Rodriguez and Isco are also missing with muscle injuries. Marco Asensio is a long-term casualty with ligament damage.

“All clubs have this problem, it is true that we have many international players who never stop,” said the coach.

Hazard To Miss Madrid Opener Against Celta Through Injury

 

Eden Hazard will miss the start of the season after sustaining a thigh injury in training on Friday, the day before Real Madrid’s La Liga opener against Celta Vigo.

Hazard was ready to make his debut in Vigo after joining Madrid for an initial 100 million euros from Chelsea in June.

But the Belgian pulled up with a minor strain at the club’s training base in Valdebebas and is now expected to be out for three to four weeks.

“After tests carried out after training today on our player Eden Hazard by the Real Madrid Medical Services, he has been diagnosed with a muscular injury to the anterior part of his right thigh,” a club statement read. “His recovery will continue to be assessed.”

Madrid begin away at Celta on Saturday before facing Real Valladolid and a trip to Villarreal ahead of the international break.

Hazard could be in line to return for their match against Levante at the Santiago Bernabeu on September 1.

His absence comes as a blow to Madrid’s coach Zinedine Zidane, who will be hoping for a positive start after some disappointing performances in pre-season.

Zidane is already without Ferland Mendy, who has a calf injury, and Marco Asensio, who is likely to be out for several months after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament.

Hazard Joins Real Madrid On Five-Year Contract

File Photo: Chelsea’s Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Europa League final football match between Chelsea FC and Arsenal FC at the Baku Olympic Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijian, on May 29, 2019. /AFP

 

Eden Hazard completed his long-awaited move from Chelsea to Real Madrid on Friday and could become the Spanish club’s most expensive signing in their history.

Real said Hazard, 28, had signed a five-year contract.

His contract at the Premier League club was due to expire next year but the Blues drove a hard bargain for the forward, who will reportedly cost Madrid an initial 100 million euros ($113 million), with another 45 million in potential add-ons.

The full amount would trump the 101 million euros Madrid paid Tottenham for Gareth Bale and the 91 million euros they spent to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United.

Unveiling at the Santiago Bernabeu is expected next week, once Hazard returns from international duty with Belgium, who play Euro 2020 qualifiers against Kazakhstan on Saturday and Scotland on Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Millions Tune In To Womens World Cup Opener In France

It means Madrid’s spending spree is picking up pace following the arrivals of defender Eder Militao and striker Luka Jovic from Porto and Eintracht Frankfurt respectively.

But Hazard is the gem Zinedine Zidane can build his new team around and brings the kind of stardust Madrid fans have craved ever since the sale of Ronaldo to Juventus last summer.

Ronaldo’s departure created a void up front that Madrid failed to fill last season, the team struggling for goals en route to finishing 19 points behind Barcelona in La Liga and crashing out to Ajax in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Hazard, who scored 110 goals in seven seasons at Chelsea, will be expected to help plug the gap has long-been admired by Zidane and Madrid president Florentino Perez.

“We have wanted to sign Hazard for several years and I hope he will come this year,” Perez told Spanish radio station Onda Cero last month.

Less clear is where Hazard will fit into Zidane’s starting line-up. Assuming he plays in his favoured position on the left of a front three, it would mean displacing the 18-year-old Brazilian, Vinicius Junior, who enjoyed a brilliant breakthrough year last season.

Chelsea said the club had tried to persuade Hazard to stay.

“Although it is with sadness we say goodbye to Eden – and we made it absolutely clear to him the club wished him to stay – we respect the decision he has made to take on a new challenge in a different country and follow his childhood dream of playing for Real Madrid,” Chelsea club director Marina Granovskaia said in a statement.

– Bale doubt –
Hazard’s arrival also adds more uncertainty around the future of Gareth Bale, who has played both on the left and right of the attacking trio in recent months but is clearly not part of Zidane’s plans.

Madrid want to sell Bale to raise money for more signings, with French left-back Ferland Mendy the next player expected to arrive, from Lyon.

But the Wales international will not be forced out and has so far shown no interest in the handful of clubs that have shown interest. Neither Bale nor his agent Jonathan Barnett have spoken to the club since the end of the season.

Hazard though would do well to match Bale’s record in Madrid as he looks to add to the trophies he won at Chelsea, which included two Premier League and two Europa League titles, as well as one FA Cup and one League Cup.

At the end of the 2014-15 season, in which Chelsea won the league, Hazard was awarded both the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and the Premier League Player of the Season. He was named in the PFA Premier League team of the year four times, in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

If Madrid pay the full amount, Chelsea stand to make a profit of more than 100 million euros, having signed Hazard for close to 40 million euros from Lille in 2012.

Chelsea had just won the Champions League when Hazard chose them over several other clubs but they have failed to replicate the success in the competition. After reaching the semi-finals in 2014, Chelsea have not gone past the last 16 in the last five seasons.

Sarri Wants Hazard Saga Resolved

Chelsea’s Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard arrives with his teammates ahead of the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Chelsea at Selhurst Park in south London on October 14, 2017 Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri says the time has come for star playmaker Eden Hazard to make up his mind as to whether he will sign a new contract.

The 27-year-old Belgian — who has been at Chelsea since 2012 — is a target for Spain’s European champions Real Madrid but said on Thursday he wanted to put off any decision on his future till the end of the season.

Chelsea, though, have offered Hazard — who reached a landmark century of goals for the club with a brace in the 2-1 win over Watford on Wednesday — a new contract reported to be worth well over £300,000 ($380,000) a week.

Sarri, though, said at his press conference on Friday he wants everything cleared up as soon as possible.

“I don’t know but I think that it’s time to decide,” said Sarri when asked if he thought Hazard would stay with the club.

“I think that we have to solve the problem. If he wants to program the future, we have to solve this problem.”

Sarri, whose side are fourth in the table 11 points off leaders Liverpool ahead of this weekend’s games, said he was powerless to intervene given the power structure inside the club.

“I am not the president, I am not in charge of the market, I am the coach,” said the 59-year-old Italian.

“I want to speak to him only about the position on the pitch.”

Sarri, who will be without Spanish forward Pedro for the away match at Crystal Palace due to a hamstring injury, is also keen to keep Hazard playing as a ‘false nine’ in the absence of the injured Alvaro Morata.

Hazard has said he prefers to play on the wing but Sarri said the impact the Belgian has made since he switched him supports his decision.

“I cannot see the problem of Hazard in this role,” said Sarri.

“He played four matches as false number nine, and he scored three goals and two assists. So I am not able to see the problem.

“I am really very happy with him in this position because he’s very able to score, first of all, but he’s very able to open spaces for the team-mates, to come and play with the team-mates.

“So at the moment I am very happy with him in this position, but in the future, he can also play as a winger of course.”

AFP

Rampant Arsenal Face Lisbon Test, Chelsea Sweat On Hazard

Arsenal’s Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (R) starts to celebrate as Leicester City’s Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (L) reacts to conceding their third goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium in London on October 22, 2018. Arsenal won the game 3-1. Glyn KIRK / IKIMAGES / AFP

 

Amid a packed schedule, Arsenal take a 10-match winning streak to Sporting Lisbon as their quest to win the Europa League continues Thursday, when city rivals Chelsea, possibly without the influential Eden Hazard, host BATE Borisov of Belarus.

After sealing an impressive 10th straight victory at home to Leicester in the Premier League on Monday, Unai Emery’s outfit are the team to watch in Group E.

Arsenal and Sporting sit on six points apiece after two games, with Azerbaijan’s Qarabag and fellow strugglers Vorskla of Ukraine still pointless.

Sporting are fifth in Portugal’s top flight, four points off the top with former Manchester United star Nani having scored three goals from seven league outings.

If Arsenal needed more reason to believe in their chances of going all the way, they need not look far. As coach of Sevilla in 2013-2016, Emery led the Spaniards to three consecutive Europa League titles.

“We are beginning to play with heart,” Emery said after Monday’s come-from-behind 3-1 win, in which Mesut Ozil scored and provided an assist in a man-of-the-match performance.

“I think we played some sexy football,” said the 30-year-old German.

Sporting, who won 2-1 away to Loures in the Portuguese Cup with Nani and Bruno Fernandes both on target, should be fresher having played on Saturday.

Arsenal played on Monday and Emery, already set to make changes due to a packed schedule, is set to tinker further after both Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac were ruled out.

“Yesterday was a very bad day for injuries,” Emery conceded on Tuesday.

 ‘We can go all the way’ 

Having won both their opening Group L matches, 2013 champions Chelsea can take a major step to the next round with a home win on Thursday, although they may have to do without Hazard.

The Belgian playmaker says he was kicked so much during Chelsea’s 2-2 weekend draw with Manchester United that he will miss the Stamford Bridge game against BATE with a bad back.

“When I woke up on Monday I was stiff. Even during the second half I couldn’t accelerate properly,” he said.

With Spanish centre-forward, Alvaro Morata struggling on just three goals this season, Hazard’s absence could rob Chelsea of their main attacking threat after a blistering seven-goal start to the Premier League campaign.

Yet Brazilian winger Willian remains upbeat about their chances, claiming the entire club has been given a lift by the arrival of new coach Maurizio Sarri.

“The way we are playing this season, we can go all the way,” the in-form winger said of their Europa League campaign.

As Marseille prepare to face Lazio, the French side will be hoping the past experience of coach Rudi Garcia pays dividends as they bid for their first win of the group stage following a 2-2 draw at Apollon Limassol. He joined them from Roma, where he faced Lazio five times in the capital-city derby and never lost.

“Three wins and two draws in five games, I hope we can get a result like I used to in those Rome derbies,” Garcia told AFP.

He added: “I’ll always have a little bit of Roma in my heart so that gives us added inspiration, but what counts here is winning, not punchlines.”

Fixtures (all matches 1655 GMT)

Group A: Zurich v Leverkusen, AEK Larnaca v Ludogorets

Group B: Salzburg v Rosenborg, Leipzig v Celtic

Group C: Zenit Saint Petersburg v Bordeaux, Kobenhavn v Slavia Praha

Group D: Anderlecht v Fenerbahce, Spartak Trnava v Dinamo Zagreb

Group E: Qarabag v Vorskla, Sporting CP v Arsenal

Group F: AC Milan v Real Betis, Dudelange v Olympiacos

Late kick-offs (all matches 1900 GMT)

Group G: Rangers v Spartak Moscow, Villarreal v Rapid Vienna

Group H: Eintracht Frankfurt v Apollon, Marseille v Lazio

Group I: Sarpsborg v Malmo, Besiktas v Genk

Group J: Standard Liege v Krasnodar, Sevilla v Akhisar

Group K: Jablonec v Astana, Rennes v Dynamo Kiev

Group L: Chelsea v BATE Borisov, PAOK v Vidi

AFP

Hazard’s Hat-Trick Sees Chelsea Smash Cardiff

Chelsea’s Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard shoots from the penalty spot to score his team’s third goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Cardiff City at Stamford Bridge in London on September 15, 2018. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Chelsea and Liverpool continue to throw down the gauntlet to Premier League champions Manchester City as all three were victorious on their return to Premier League action on Saturday.

Liverpool showed their credentials in targeting a first title since 1990 are for real and such was the Reds’ dominance the scoreline did not do Jurgen Klopp’s men justice in winning 2-1 at Tottenham.

Chelsea also made it five wins from as many games under Maurizio Sarri thanks to the brilliance of Eden Hazard, who scored a hat-trick in a convincing 4-1 win over Cardiff to edge ahead of Liverpool on goal difference.

City remain just two points back and looked back to their best in tearing apart Fulham 3-0 thanks to goals from Leroy Sane, David Silva and Raheem Sterling.

Liverpool’s first win away at Tottenham in four attempts for Klopp was another sign of the progress made under the German, particularly as they suffered a 4-1 thrashing at Wembley last season.

“Nobody will play the perfect season. It’s still early, five games, fantastic we won all five and improved. I like that development,” said Klopp.

“Now we have to prove that and do it again and again.”

Spurs paid a heavy price for the absence of captain Hugo Lloris through injury as stand-in goalkeeper Michel Vorm flapped at a corner six minutes before the break and Georginio Wijnaldum looped a header over the line before Vorm could scramble clear.

Roberto Firmino tapped home a second nine minutes into the second-half and Liverpool should have added to their lead as Sadio Mane and Naby Keita were denied by Vorm.

However, the visitors had to see out a nervy final few seconds when Erik Lamela skillfully volleyed home from a narrow angle and Son Heung-min had a penalty appeal waived away with the final attack of the game.

Sane returns in style 

City and Chelsea await in Liverpool’s next three league games and remained in touch with the leaders with comfortable home victories.

Pep Guardiola started Leroy Sane for the first time this campaign and last season’s Premier League Young Player of the Year looked more like his old self as Fulham were put to the sword.

Sane tapped home Fernandinho’s inviting cross inside two minutes before Silva smashed his 50th Premier League goal and Sterling completed the rout.

Sarri is still to taste anything but victory in English football, but had a scare early on at home to Cardiff when Sol Bamba put the visitors in front at Stamford Bridge.

However, Cardiff’s failure to significantly strengthen over the summer means they are liable to being outclassed at this level and were undone by the brilliance of Hazard.

The diminutive Belgian scored twice in seven minutes to send Chelsea in ahead at half-time and completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot before Willian added a fourth.

Mesut Ozil quietened his critics with his first goal since February as Arsenal continued to creep up the table with a 2-1 win at Newcastle.

The Gunners are still not firing on all cylinders under new boss Unai Emery, but Granit Xhaka’s free-kick put them on course for a third straight win before Ozil compounded Newcastle’s misery as the Magpies remain rooted in the bottom three.

Bournemouth moved up to fifth with an impressive 4-2 victory over 10-man Leicester with Ryan Fraser scoring twice.

And Wilfried Zaha underlined his importance to Crystal Palace with the only goal in his return from injury in a 1-0 win at Huddersfield.

AFP

Boyata Starts In Defence As Hazard Leads Belgium Against Panama

A Belgium fan waits for the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Belgium and Panama at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi on June 18, 2018. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Dedrick Boyata starts in Belgium’s defence as Roberto Martinez’s gifted side begin their World Cup campaign against outsiders Panama in Sochi on Monday.

Boyata, of Celtic, profits from the absences of Thomas Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany to play in a central defensive three in a Belgian team skippered by Eden Hazard for this Group G encounter.

Kevin De Bruyne lines up in midfield with Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens in the Red Devils’ attack.

Panama’s line-up at the Fisht Stadium is as confirmed by coach Hernan Dario Gomez on the eve of the game as they make their World Cup bow.

Roman Torres, whose goal against Costa Rica in qualifying secured Panama a place in Russia, captains the side from central defence.

Belgium (3-4-2-1)

Thibaut Courtois; Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Jan Vertonghen; Thomas Meunier, Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Yannick Carrasco; Eden Hazard (capt); Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku

Coach: Roberto Martinez (ESP)

Panama (4-1-4-1)

Jaime Penedo; Michael Amir Murillo, Fidel Escobar, Roman Torres (capt), Eric Davis; Gabriel Gomez; Edgar Joel Barcenas, Armando Cooper, Anibal Godoy, Jose Luis Rodriguez; Blas Perez

Coach: Hernan Dario Gomez (COL)

Referee: Janny Sikazwe (ZAM)

AFP

Chelsea Paying For Champions League Gain – Hazard

Hazard Inspires Chelsea To Win Big At West Brom
Chelsea’s Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard celebrates scoring his goal 
Roland Harrison / AFP

Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard believes the English champions’ defence of their title was always going to be compromised by a return to Champions League football this season.

Despite the Belgian’s 13th goal of the season, Chelsea crumbled to a 4-1 defeat at Watford on Monday night to remain fourth in the Premier League, 19 points adrift of runaway leaders Manchester City.

“I think the Premier League is difficult. It is hard to win every year,” Hazard told ESPN FC.

“Last year we didn’t have the Champions League. This year we have less time to be ready for the games. Every week there are three games.”

Despite speculation intensifying over his future, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte dismissed suggestions of tiredness for his side’s struggles as an excuse.

“The winner finds a solution, the loser finds excuses. In my life I like to be a winner and I am a winner,” said the Italian.

However, with his job on the line, Chelsea face a season defining few weeks after West Brom’s visit to Stamford Bridge on Monday.

A home tie against Hull City in the FA Cup fifth round is followed by the visit of Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on February 20, before trips to both Manchester United and City in the league and then the return Champions League leg at the Camp Nou on March 14.

Conte has repeatedly voiced his displeasure at the club’s recruitment strategy following the departure of key players in Chelsea’s title-winning campaign such as Diego Costa and Nemanja Vidic.

Tiemoue Bakayoko’s poor first season in England following a big money move from Monaco continued as he was sent-off after just half an hour at Watford, whilst club record signing Alvaro Morata has struggled to fill Costa’s shoes due to a mixture of inconsistent form and injury.

However, with no side having retained the Premier League since 2009, Hazard believes it is the unpredictability of England’s top flight that makes it so attractive to players and fans around the world.

“We changed a couple of things, we lost players, we brought some new ones and every year is different,” he added.

“That’s why we love football, if there is only one team that wins it would be boring.

“That’s why football is special. You never know what’s going to happen, especially in England.”

AFP

Hazard Shines As Chelsea Return To Winning Ways

Hazard Shines As Chelsea Return To Winning Ways
(Files) Chelsea’s Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard celebrates scoring a goal at Stamford Bridge in London on December 2, 2017. Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

 

A sublime performance from Eden Hazard solved Chelsea’s recent scoring problems in their first victory this year conjuring two goals in a 4-0 win away to Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Two goals in the opening six minutes at the Amex Stadium — Hazard’s opener followed by a Willian strike –- put the Blues in control, with Hazard adding the London side’s third goal in the 77th minute before Victor Moses wrapped up the win two minutes from time.

This success moved Antonio Conte’s reigning Premier League champions above Liverpool and into third place, 48 hours before the Reds travel to Swansea.

The margin of victory was tough on Brighton who were unable to improve on a run that has now brought the Seagulls just one win in 13 games.

Conte’s hand had been forced by the midweek dismissals of Alavaro Morata and Pedro in the FA Cup replay with Norwich City –- Chelsea eventually progressed into the fourth round after a penalty shoot-out — which meant both players were suspended for the trip to the south coast.

As a result, Chelsea coach Conte had little option but to start with a front three led by Michy Batshuayi flanked by Hazard and Willian.

Brighton’s starting line-up was much more of a surprise with manager Chris Hughton unexpectedly opting for a back three while omitting club captain Bruno Saltor and last season’s Championship player of the year, Anthony Knockaert.

– Albion defence goes AWOL –

But if Hughton’s intention were to bolster Brighton’s defence, his plans backfired disastrously in the opening six minutes when Chelsea, who have struggled in front of goal in recent weeks, twice carved open a reconfigured backline.

Conte’s side took full advantage of Brighton’s willingness to sit back and created a passing move that released Moses.

When the wing-back pulled the ball back from the byline, Hazard benefited from a deflection off Dale Stephens and Lewis Dunk’s slip before placing his shot beyond goalkeeper Mat Ryan.

There was even worse to come for Brighton fewer than three minutes later when Dunk’s misplaced pass handed Chelsea possession near the halfway line.

Willian collected the loose ball, found Hazard, and continued his run towards the edge of the box were he collected a return after neat flicks from Hazard and Batshuayi before firing past Ryan.

The Seagulls were shell-shocked and the game appeared to be effectively over but, to their credit, Brighton recovered and responded positively as they began to build-up momentum.

Nevertheless, their efforts to work their way back into the match were undone both by poor finishing and referee Jon Moss’s decision to reject two strong penalty appeals.

Brighton’s first claim came in the 16th minute when Chelsea keeper Willy Caballero — Thibaut Courtois was ruled out with an ankle problem –– weakly palmed a cross away and appeared to trip Ezequiel Schelotto as he attempted to recover from his mistake.

Then 20 minutes later, Albion wing-back Schelotto again burst into the area before going down under a challenge from Tiemoue Bakayoko.

With Tomer Hemed and Markus Suttner both wasting good headed chances, Brighton’s hopes dimmed, particularly as Hazard looked threatening every time he pressed forward.

The pattern was maintained after the break with Albion’s Davey Propper heading against the bar four minutes into the second half before Ryan kept Brighton in the match by pushing Willian’s free-kick onto the post and away to safety.

Hazard finally killed off the game in the 77th minute after running from deep before slotting home the third with a delightful shot back across the retreating cover.

Moses rounded off a convincing victory when he got on the end of substitute Charly Musonda’s excellent long ball to make it 4-0.

AFP

Conte Keen Not To Lose Hazard, Courtois

Antonio Conte wants both Belgian star duo playmaker Eden Hazard and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to remain with champions Chelsea despite speculation they would like to move to Spain.

Hazard’s father told a Belgian newspaper his son doesn’t wish to commit to a new contract — he still has over two years left on his present one — because of apparent interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid.

Courtois, who had a highly successful spell with Atletico Madrid, has said he would like to return to Spain one day especially as his children are being brought up in Madrid.

However, Conte, speaking on the eve of his side’s match with Stoke City, stonewalled on both counts saying in the case of 26-year-old Hazard whatever was said would not be revealed in public.

“This is a private conversation — between the club and the player, and the agent of the player,” said Conte.

“I’m proud to have him in my team, in my squad, and I’m very happy to work with him.

“He’s a really good guy and has a lot of space for improvement, to become one of the best players in the world.

“But, I repeat, on this issue: this must be a private conversation between the player, the player’s agent and the club.”

Chelsea’s Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Photo: Glyn KIRK / AFP

The 48-year-old Italian — whose side are third in the table 16 points adrift of leaders Manchester City but just one behind a stumbling Manchester United — said he was not aware of the family situation regarding 25-year-old Courtois.

“Courtois has a contract, also for next season, with the club,” said Conte.

“We are talking about a fantastic goalkeeper, a really good guy, and I’m happy to work with him.

“I don’t know about this issue (surrounding Courtois’ family living in Spain).

“For sure, when you are in a great club and you trust in the project, you want to stay. You want to continue to play for this team. The family is not a problem.

“You are talking about two important players for us.

“It’s very important to try to improve your team, to strengthen your team, and not to sell the best players.”

AFP

Hazard Hits Brace As Chelsea Beat Newcastle

Hazard Hits Brace As Chelsea Beat Newcastle
Chelsea’s Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard celebrates scoring his team’s first goal during the football match against Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge on December 2, 2017. Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

 

Eden Hazard gave England followers a glimpse of what to expect at next summer’s World Cup with a glorious display as Chelsea beat Newcastle United 3-1 at Stamford Bridge.

Less than 24 hours after the World Cup draw put Belgium and England in the same group, Belgian Hazard was in imperious form, scoring twice and running at defenders at will.

Chelsea’s victory, which keeps them third in the Premier League, ought to have been more emphatic but it briefly looked as if they might not collect the three points at all when Newcastle took a surprise lead in the 12th minute.

Dwight Gayle chased down his own header and hurried Marcos Alonso into a back-pass which sold his keeper Thibaut Courtois short.

Seeking to prevent Jacob Murphy nipping in to round him, Courtois was forced to dive at the Newcastle winger’s feet but succeeded only in pushing the ball back to Gayle, who stroked it into the empty net.

The Chelsea response was immediate. Twice they went close before inevitable equaliser finally arrived after 20 minutes. Alvaro Morata contested a high ball and it bounced off him and dropped towards Hazard, who controlled his half-volley to perfection, driving the ball into the ground and bouncing it into the far corner of the net.

That goal settled any anxiety that had been floating around Stamford Bridge and it came as no surprise when the home side took the lead just after the half-hour.

Matt Ritchie’s clearing header was neither strong, nor decisive and fell straight to Victor Moses who quickly drilled over a cross that Morata merely had to divert home with his head.

Danny Drinkwater, making only his second Chelsea start in the Premier League, was the next to go close with a shot which drifted away from the far post.

The second half began as quietly as the first, with only a deflected Hazard shot raising excitement levels among the crowd above the soporific.

That was until the 56th minute when the Belgian danced through the centre of the Newcastle defence only to stumble just he approached Karl Darlow in the Newcastle goal.

At the other end, Ayoze Perez sent a bouncing shot just wide of the post, his last act before being replaced by Isaac Hayden.

If anyone was going to add to the scoreboard, however, it was going to be Hazard. Prepared to drift all over the pitch in search of the ball, he picked it up in his own half after 69 minutes and had Newcastle defenders backpedalling and afraid to tackle lest he skips his way past them.

A one-two with Drinkwater ended with the ball agonisingly out of his reach.

When his second goal came, it was from the penalty spot, impudently chipping the ball beyond Darlow after Ritchie had brought down Moses.

The Newcastle keeper exacted a revenge of sorts moments later when he stuck out a hand to deny Hazard his hat-trick.

As if in an act of mercy by Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, that was Hazards last contribution as he was replaced by Willian. Chelsea did not need him by then and may even have won more convincingly had Darlow not blocked Alonso’s goal-bound shot.

AFP