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'Everyone knows how to handle Hazard apart from Sarri' - Chelsea boss baffles Hoddle

10:35 GMT+4 19/04/2019
Eden Hazard Chelsea 2018-19
The former Blues player and manager is bemused as to why an Italian coach has continued to use his most valuable asset as a striker this season

Maurizio Sarri has been accused of being the only person at Chelsea who does not know how to handle Eden Hazard, with Glenn Hoddle questioning a penchant for using the Belgian as a striker.

The Blues had their most destructive attacking weapon back in a wide support role against Slavia Prague in the Europa League on Thursday.

World Cup winner Olivier Giroud was given another chance to lead the line, with January arrival Gonzalo Higuain on the bench.

Hazard has, however, been asked to operate as a ‘false nine’ on a regular basis this season, with Hoddle baffled as to why Sarri has persisted with an approach that clearly does not play to the strengths of those at his disposal.

The former Chelsea player and manager told BT Sport: “Higuain looks as if he's thinking about things before he's even going to get a shot off.

“He's a little bit slower than he was in yesteryear, he was a fantastic striker, don't get me wrong.

“He looks like he should be in better shape than when he arrived, but for me he looks actually a little bit in less good shape, he looks as if he's put a bit of weight on since he's been here.

“Perhaps he's been in the gym too much, I don't know. But Giroud is class, and he gives Chelsea a focal point and allows Hazard to play off a focal point, which is important.

“Hazard shouldn't be the one up there, I think everyone in this stadium knows that bar Sarri.”

Hoddle added on the need to continue using Hazard in a wide role as Chelsea chase down European glory and a top-four finish: “Absolutely [fans will be happy to see him out there], I just don't get it, why would you put such a talented player with his back to play?

“Where centre-backs will come in and get him, midfielders who are holding are going to nip back get him. Why would you put him in those circumstances?”

The ex-England boss went on to say of a 28-year-old who was used down the middle in a 2-0 Premier League defeat to Liverpool: “Also at Anfield and certain other games, you need someone to hold the ball up for you. Consequently, Liverpool had too much for them.

“I don't get it... they need a target man. You can't play balls to Hazard, one of the best players in the world, like that. No one is going to be able to produce anything with service like that.

“In Chelsea's game against Liverpool, Mohamed Salah capitalised on a Chelsea mistake and was able to score a wonderful goal.

“That's where this wonder goal from Salah comes from, and that’s not Hazard's fault, it's the system and I don't get it, I really don’t.”

Amid the questioning of the positional tinkering at Chelsea, Hazard’s future remains a subject of much debate at Stamford Bridge – with a prized asset approaching the final year of his contract and sparking talk of an imminent move to Real Madrid.