Eden Hazard backs Maurizio Sarri football philosophy

A television broadcast camera films as Chelsea's Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard applauds the fans following the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Chelsea at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, southern England on October 7, 2018. - Chelsea won the match 3-0. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) /

Chelsea forward Eden Hazard has backed manager Maurizio Sarri and says they think about football in “the same way”.

Hazard, who has been linked with a summer move to Real Madrid, dominated Monday’s win over West Ham, as the Blues went third in the Premier League.

Sarri has been criticised by some Chelsea fans as he implements his ‘Sarriball’ philosophy in his first season at Stamford Bridge.

But Hazard, 28, said: “It’s easy to understand each other.”

Sarri has said he must “respect” the Belgium international’s decision if he chooses to leave the club, with reports of an imminent £100m transfer to Spanish giants Real.

Hazard’s two goals against the Hammers, which earned Chelsea their third straight victory, took his season’s tally to 19, equalling his joint best for a campaign.

“Statistically it’s my best season, and I like to say that because the way he’s [Sarri] thinking is the same way I think football,” Hazard told Football Focus.

“Sometimes we have lost but, at the end, the way he wants to play is the way I want Chelsea to play.”

Some sections of Chelsea’s support have turned against their manager at times this season, chanting “we want Sarri out” and “you don’t know what you’re doing” against Cardiff in March.

The 60-year-old Italian has also criticised his players’ “mental block” and “mental limit” after damaging defeats.

But Hazard says he appreciates the task faced by the former Napoli boss, who demands a different style of football to his Blues predecessors, including Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho, who both won the Premier League with the Stamford Bridge club.

“I think he is a fantastic manager. After Conte it was not easy,” Hazard added.

“He came here with his own ideas to play football and I think we have done quite well. It’s not simple to play the football he wants to play but I think now we have started to understand.

“We are working a lot because this manager is different to Conte, he’s different to Mourinho.

“It’s not easy to change everything but I think we have showed in the past two or three weeks that we have adapted well, and now we want to finish the season well.”

Hazard, whose Chelsea contract expires in June 2020, said earlier this season he was torn between a new deal at Stamford Bridge and a “dream” move to Real Madrid.

And though any deal may be complicated by the Blues’ transfer ban until January 2020 – which the club are appealing against – Sarri admitted it would be “very difficult” to keep his star player.

Asked about his immediate future, Hazard responded: “I don’t want to talk about that. I am focused on the last month with Chelsea and then we will see what happens.”

Chelsea are now third in the league table but have played a game more than Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United, their rivals for a top-four finish and qualification for next season’s Champions League.

As a result, Sarri’s side may need to rely on winning the Europa League to secure their place in Europe’s premier competition.

“We have to, that’s simple,” said Hazard about Champions League qualification.

“The only solution is to finish in the top four or win the Europa League.

“It’s not just about me – the club has to be in the Champions League. We missed the Champions League this season so for the fans, the board, the players and staff, this club has to be in the Champions League every year. It’s our challenge and we can do it.

“Every year, we need to start at the beginning of the season thinking we can win a trophy. It’s hard because [Manchester] City and Liverpool are better than Chelsea, but we are Chelsea – the past 10 years we won a lot of trophies.

“It’s just about mentality. If we want to win something we can do it.”

Chelsea travel to Slavia Prague for the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday (20:00 BST kick-off), before facing title hopefuls Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday (16:30).

Referring to the title race, Hazard said: “We want to finish in the top four. We don’t care about who can win the title, or City or Liverpool. We want to go there and try to win the game.

“I want to say City [will win the title] because we still have Liverpool to play and we want to beat them. I think I will say City.”

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