Eden Hazard remained the talk of the Chelsea town on Friday, dominating the pre-match narratives ahead of Chelsea's FA Cup quarterfinal match against Everton, away at Goodison Park.
Amid the growing drama of his injuries — Hazard's father claims Chelsea have "pushed" Eden to play despite a lingering hip injury — interim manager Guus Hiddink tried to diffuse the situation, addressing some of the concerns over Hazard's perceived lack of commitment to the cause.
"Everybody has his own charisma. If you see Diego Costa he's very outspoken, you know when he's angry. Eden is a different character. People have different expressions, it doesn't mean he's not involved and that's where we need to sympathise with him. He's committed and that's why I defend him. He's concerned and knows he has to deliver more."
"Most of the time you try to get them back into the feeling of spontaneous actions, not thinking too much and going back to what they're good at. The last percentage of getting him to top fitness will help as well."
-Guus Hiddink; source: Chelsea FC
Hiddink hints at a combination of factors playing a part, including the pressure that comes from the struggle itself (i.e. the feedback loop of poor performances feeding into more pressure and more poor play), and the lingering injuries. But it's a bit of a confusing situation with Hazard, especially considering how careful we are with other players' injuries (Terry, Pedro, for example).
"I don't think he needs a rest, we talk with the players as well and measure them. We also have this system where we measure if they have too much work and they go into a 'fatigue zone' where the risk of injury is higher. We experienced that with Pedro who was working very hard, and had problems physically. Eden also had a few weeks ago a bit this problem, coming back from his injury, going into the danger zone or red zone of having a risk of injury."
"But now that risk is not that big any more. So that suggests he can work on without a big risk."
-Guus Hiddink; source: Mail
And yet, the risk taken seemed to backfire on Wednesday as Hazard re-aggravated the hip problem. It would appear that he had to take painkillers just to play — not sure how common that is, in fairness.
After a rest in January, Hazard was pain-free, but since a few weeks he's been suffering again. Daddy Hazard: "Chelsea push him to play."— Kristof Terreur (@HLNinEngeland) March 11, 2016
And yet, Hiddink's also saying things like...
So Eden Hazard will be available tomorrow: "He's not fully fit, but he's desperate to play." #cfc— Kristof Terreur (@HLNinEngeland) March 11, 2016
So he's desperate to play, but he's injured, but we push him, but he's a quitter and a shirt-swapper and he's already checked-out. Or something. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, probably, as usual.
Fortunately, at least for now, there's one thing all parties seem to agree on: Hazard is staying, and playing, and fighting on.
His father also added: "Eden has a contract until 2020. At the moment, a transfer is out of question." #CFC— Kristof Terreur (@HLNinEngeland) March 11, 2016