Chelsea winger Willian has revealed the impact that the loss of his mother, who passed away after two years of suffering with a brain tumour, had on his football.
The Brazilian was allowed to return to his homeland on compassionate leave in October, but has found it difficult to regain his starting berth on his return.
Pedro’s form on the right side of Chelsea’s front three meant that last week’s win at Sunderland was the first time Willian had started since the death of his mother.
“It has been a difficult time for me since I lost my mum,” he said, quoted in the Independent. “It has been very difficult emotionally. She was very important for me and she always will be very important to me.
“After she died, I stayed in Brazil for a week. Slowly I have come back and started to feel better and to feel I can play for the team.”
Willian kept his place in the side in Saturday’s win against Crystal Palace after deputising for Hazard at the Stadium of Light.
And he admitted there is work to do to maintain his place in the side with the options available to manager Antonio Conte.
He added: “Now I have to think only about the good things and to keep working, keep playing. That’s what I want to do.”
Chelsea are aiming for a 12th consecutive victory when they play Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day.
The Blues will be without both Diego Costa and N’Golo Kante, however, but Willian is confident that they can cope in their absence.
“Diego is such an important player for us,” he said. “He is playing well, scoring goals. It will be difficult without him for that game, but we have players who can come in and do well. We need to try to keep doing the same thing – winning, taking game by game.”