Thomas Tuchel has revealed he has “the biggest respect” for Eden Hazard as the former Chelsea winger prepares to face his old club with Real Madrid.
Hazard spent an illustrious seven seasons at Chelsea, winning two Premier League titles and four other trophies. He was expected to reach even bigger heights when he left to join Real Madrid in 2019. Sadly, injuries have prevented him from making much progress in Spain.
Fortunately, though, Hazard should be available for selection against Chelsea when they face Madrid in the Champions League semi-final on Tuesday.
The Belgium international was disappointed to miss the quarter-finals against Liverpool. But after coming on as a substitute in Real Madrid’s most recent La Liga match, he should be back in contention to face Chelsea.
There is no doubt that Hazard will be looking forward to the two-legged tie against a club where he made so many memories. On his day, he was one of the best players in the world during his time at Chelsea.
Hence, current Blues boss Tuchel is a big admirer of the 30-year-old – even if he joked he would rather Hazard didn’t play on Tuesday.
Tuchel said: “He is a top-quality player and a key player for many years at this club and this league, the hardest in the world. So consistent.
“I have the biggest respect for him. He is a big player.
“We have many people here who know him well. He was a key player for this club now he plays for Real Madrid.
“He is fit, had a comeback in the last game. If he plays, I am sure he wants to make a point.
“They can leave his spot open and only play with 10 if they want!”
Tuchel outlines semi-final strategy
Meanwhile, Tuchel has told Chelsea not to “overthink” their clash with Madrid as he laid out their semi-final strategy.
The Blues will go into this match full of motivation as they look to continue a run of three consecutive clean sheets.
Therefore, Tuchel does not want their approach to differ from what they have been doing in the Premier League and FA Cup recently.
“Be ourselves, that is the strategy,” he said at his pre-match press conference. “Rely on yourself, your strengths and do the things that make you confident.
“Hopefully we don’t overthink and overdo it.”
Chelsea go into the game on the back of a 1-0 win over West Ham which strengthened their push to remain in the Champions League next season.
Tuchel knows they need another big performance in Madrid but believes the win over West Ham has given them confidence.
“It is the best way to arrive in a CL match with a crucial win on our backs,” he said. “It is a crucial experience we have in our luggage, it makes the bond strong and close.
“Tomorrow we need clearly a top-level team performance.”