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Hazard IN; Morata, Fabregas OUT: Chelsea take bare-bones squad to Belarus

Just 19 players traveled from London to Minsk for Thursday’s Europa League match against BATE Borisov

Chelsea FC v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Contrary to initial reports, Eden Hazard was not left back at Cobham like he was for Chelsea’s first away trip in this year’s Europa League group stages.

While it would’ve made sense to have him stay at Cobham and let him rest and finish recovering from his back injury, it sounds like we’re choosing to do a more active type of recovery for him. So after a 30-minute appearance on Sunday, he’s now set for about a half’s worth of work, as Maurizio Sarri revealed after the squad landed in Minsk, Belarus tonight.

“According to our doctor there is not any risk, otherwise he would have stayed at Cobham, of course. We felt that for him it’s better to play, not for 90 minutes, but to play after two weeks of not playing.

“In the last match he played only for 30 minutes. The best way for him is that tomorrow he will play for 45 or 50 minutes.”

Hazard has only featured in one of the previous three Europa League matches, so this is definitely an assignment borne out of fitness considerations rather than any competitive notions, especially with a two-week international break looming after the weekend.

Eden also needed to travel simply to make up numbers, as Chelsea have taken just 19 players, including three goalkeepers to Belarus. So that’s 11 starters, 7 substitutes, and the extra goalkeeper, which is the bare minimum. As with the trip to Greece for the PAOK match, four regulars have remained at Cobham to rest up a bit: David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger, Marcos Alonso and Alvaro Morata, who’s had to shoulder a double load with Olivier Giroud battling leg fatigue. Giroud should be fit to play tomorrow.

“Morata stayed at Cobham just to rest and to have training because he played very often in the last period.”

“I think it’s better for him to stay fit, with two or three training sessions, than only with matches. It’s normal for a player to play three matches and then rest for one, otherwise we could have a squad with only 13 or 14 players.

“Sometimes it’s better for the players to train rather than just play, to train on some particular physical qualities. If they only play they will lose that physical quality they need, and that’s been proved scientifically over a 21-day period.”

“Today he had intense aerobic training, with five-second, 10-second, 15-second and 20-second active recovery and passive recovery. We don’t use any weights, it’s all natural work that we do in the gym. Have you ever seen a player with a weight on the pitch?”

The trio will be joined by surprise absentees Victor Moses, who surely has his bags packed for a January exit already, and Cesc Fabregas, who’s battling a fever. (As well as Danny Drinkwater, Lucas Piazon, and Rob Green, who are all ineligible for the Europa League.)

“The only problem is Cesc. This morning he had a fever and has had to stay at Cobham, so we called N’Golo Kante.”

-Maurizio Sarri; source: Chelsea FC

So Kante hopped in his Mini and made the plane.

Here is Chelsea’s complete 19-man squad for Thursday’s BATE Borisov game:

GOALKEEPERS: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Willy Caballero, Marcin Bulka

DEFENDERS: Davide Zappacosta, Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta, Emerson Palmieri, Ethan Ampadu

MIDFIELDERS: Jorginho, Ross Barkley, Mateo Kovacic, N’Golo Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek

FORWARDS: Pedro, Eden Hazard, Olivier Giroud, Willian, Callum Hudson-Odoi

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