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-year-old 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
"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.
Also read: Chelsea's Hazard says he's in the worst form of his life
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
"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:
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
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
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
DYNAMO AWAITS FATE
Not only could Dynamo's qualifying hopes be ended by a loss
in Portugal, but the club also faces a heavy UEFA punishment.
UEFA is expected to rule imminently on racists attacks which
marred Dynamo's 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea last month. Possible punishments
include playing home European games in an empty stadium or a points deduction.
On the field, things are better for Dynamo, which has won
its last three Ukrainian league games without conceding a single goal.For
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