Haz­ard solv­ing slump mystery key to Chelsea re­cov­er­ing form

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

LON­DON: If one player epit­o­mizes Chelsea’s slump it’s surely Eden Haz­ard. The play­maker was feted as the Premier League’s finest tal­ent as last sea­son ended with Chelsea win­ning the ti­tle and Eng­land’s top two in­di­vid­ual awards were pre­sented to the 24-yearold Bel­gian.

As Chelsea has strug­gled since Au­gust start­ing its ti­tle de­fense by col­lect­ing 14 points from a pos­si­ble 39 and sit­ting sec­ond in Cham­pi­ons League Group G - so has Haz­ard.”I didn’t start the sea­son well. I tried to find out why, but I don’t know,” Haz­ard said ahead of Tues­day’s match at Mac­cabi Tel Aviv.

“Some­times you don’t know. You have to keep go­ing. I gave ev­ery­thing in train­ing, on the pitch when I played. I hope I can get a lot of form and try to help the team win games.”

Chelsea, which can qual­ify for the knock­out phase with vic­tory in Is­rael if leader Porto beats Dy­namo Kiev, ended a run of three league losses on Satur­day by beat­ing Nor­wich 1-0.Haz­ard thrived in a cen­tral role play­ing be­hind Diego Costa rather than be­ing on the left flank the re­sult of a con­ver­sa­tion with un­der-pres­sure man­ager Jose Mour­inho. “I said to him, ‘Maybe we have to try to change some­thing. If I can play num­ber 10?” Haz­ard re­called.

At a time when Chelsea is strug­gling to score, Haz­ard’s only goals this sea­son have come while on in­ter­na­tional duty with four for Bel­gium. Haz­ard ac­crued 19 goals for Chelsea in win­ning the player of the year awards for 2014-15. Far from that be­ing a launch-pad to try to chal­lenge Lionel Messi and Cris­tiano Ron­aldo for elite global sta­tus, Haz­ard’s ca­reer has stalled.

Mour­inho isn’t be­ing blamed for his or Chelsea’s loss in form. “I don’t have a prob­lem with him,” Haz­ard said. “He is the best man­ager. He is the best man­ager for Chelsea and we hope we can win a lot of tro­phies to­gether. Maybe not this sea­son be­cause it will be dif­fi­cult, but next sea­son and on.” Here are some other talk­ing points ahead of Tues­day’s games in Group G:

POINT­LESS MAC­CABI

Top of the Is­raeli league but bot­tom in Europe, the Tel Aviv side can still qual­ify for the Europa League by fin­ish­ing third in Group G - just. But it is yet to col­lect a sin­gle point and sits five be­hind Dy­namo Kiev with two games re­main­ing. Do­mes­ti­cally, Mac­cabi is thriv­ing at least: win­ning six of its last seven league games.

BUENO PUSHES FOR A PLACE

With Porto win­ning eight in nine in the league, Al­berto Bueno is be­ing kept out of the team. The Span­ish striker ar­rived at the Por­tuguese club in the sum­mer trans­fer win­dow from Rayo Val­le­cano, where he ex­celled with 17 goals last sea­son. But Porto’s solid run and the top form of Vin­cent Aboubakar and Yacime Brahimi in Porto’s at­tack has shut Bueno out of the main com­pe­ti­tions so far.

Only when coach Julen Lopetegui made six changes to his usual team for the Por­tuguese Cup game against lowly An­grense did Bueno open his ac­count for Porto: scor­ing both goals in a 2-0 win.

“FC Porto has a great team and we have to wait for our chance,” the 27-year-old Bueno said. “I’m happy but I want to play more.” He’ll be hop­ing that comes against Dy­namo Kiev when a place in the round of 16 can be se­cured by Porto, which leads Chelsea by three points. — AP

PORTO: Porto’s Al­ge­rian mid­fielder Yacine Brahimi (L) and Porto’s French de­fender Aly Cis­sokho (R) take part in a train­ing ses­sion at the Dra­gao sta­dium in Porto yes­ter­day, on the eve of the UEFA Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball match FC Porto vs Dy­namo Kiev. — AFP

HAIFA: Chelsea’s soc­cer team play­ers run dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion ahead of Group G Cham­pi­ons League soc­cer match in Haifa, Is­rael, yes­ter­day. Chelsea will play against Mac­cabi Tel Aviv to­day. — AP

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