Chelsea could come to regard the fractured ankle Eden Hazard suffered in the summer as a blessing in disguise.

For Chelsea to have any chance of reaching the Champions League Final in Kiev, they will need Hazard at his very best.

The Belgium international has grown accustomed to such pressure. What he has not been used to since arriving from Lille for £32million in 2012 is a lengthy summer break.

Hazard has averaged 57 games a season for club and country over the past five years and that does not include the pre-season tours. 

It means he has been getting just a few weeks to recharge each close season and that can take its toll.

In Pictures | Chelsea train ahead of Roma | 30/10/17

But 2017-18 is a different story as the ankle injury sustained while training with Belgium in June meant he missed Chelsea’s pre‑season tour and only returned to the first-team squad last month.

He has started just 10 games for Chelsea and Belgium this term, completing 90 minutes on only four occasions.

Hazard has had to work on his match conditioning with the campaign already under way and his performances are steadily improving.

A brace against Roma at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago earned a crucial Champions League draw, while he scored the winner at Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday.

Simon Johnson previews Roma vs Chelsea

With so many potential games this term, Hazard should be in a better position to sustain his high standards for the duration.

Team-mate Marcos Alonso certainly believes the 26-year-old will benefit from the enforced lay-off.

The wing-back told Standard Sport: “When you come back from a long‑term injury, it is never easy to get back to 100 per cent. 

“I think he is playing at a very good level now but I know he will get better and better.

“He will build up from the start of the season, he will get confident with his ankle and improve every game.

“Even though he was injured in the summer, he was able to train very well without playing any matches. Now with the way we train, it is easy for him to get back to full fitness. 

“He is very important for Chelsea and has to make the difference for us. He’s a crucial player for us. Obviously, we have other players and they did very well when he was not available. But if Eden is 100 per cent fit, he is one of the best players in the world.”

Photo: Steven Paston/PA

Given the way Roma outplayed Chelsea two weeks ago, they will need more than just Hazard to shine at the Stadio Olimpico this evening.

Still, their last away trip in the competition was arguably their most outstanding display under Antonio Conte, winning 2-1 at Atletico Madrid.

“Hopefully, we will put in a similar performance,” said Alonso. “Atletico are a very tough opponent and we did very well against them. 

“That is a good example to the level we have to perform at. We are working for this but it is not easy to maintain it, there is also another team on the other side. We are working to play at that standard all the time. Bournemouth was a very good game and this is the way to work.

“We controlled it during the 90 minutes, we had a lot of possession [against Bournemouth] that we were missing the last couple of games. 

“We also defended very well, we didn’t concede either and that is the way we have to keep going. It helps build our confidence. It was a massive thing for us, to start a very difficult week where we face Roma and Manchester United as well.” 

One suspects Hazard will have a major say in whether the season, not just the course of the next week, ends on a high.


How they could line up

Roma starting XI: Alisson; Florenzi, Manolas, Fazio, Kolarov; Nainggolan, De Rossi, Stfansitedbusrman; Perotti, Dzeko, Gerson

Chelsea starting XI: Courtois; Rudiger, Luiz, Cahill; Azpilicueta, Kante, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso; Hazard; Morata


Match prediction

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Source: https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/eden-hazard-s-unlucky-break-can-pay-off-richly-for-chelsea-a3672336.html