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Sarri highlights Hazard’s importance, rules out Pedro and Hudson-Odoi

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Crystal Palace vs Chelsea, Premier League: Pre-match press conference

Tis the holiday season which means the games are coming thick and fast. After unconvincingly beating Watford, Chelsea prepare for a trip away to Selhurst Park for our fourth game in 10 days. There sure are going to be some tired legs out there.

While we may have won against Watford, it was not all hunky-dory as the game claimed two casualties in Pedro and Callum Hudson-Odoi, both being substituted due to hamstring injuries. It seems that neither will be able to make it back in time for Sunday.

“Two problems, the first more serious with Pedro. A hamstring injury and I think that he will have to rest for about ten days. The second problem was Odoi, it’s not a serious problem but I don’t think he will play in the next match.”

One winger who isn’t injured is Eden Hazard, though he’s been playing center forward (false-nine) instead lately, thanks in part to the actual strikers in the squad either injured, misfiring, or both.

That’s just one of the reasons Chelsea are not really in the title race, even if Manchester City have made it interesting by losing back-to-back games. (Could it be Liverpool’s year at long last?)

Out of three teams ahead of us, Manchester City and Spurs have two of the best strikers in Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane, while Liverpool’s front three of Salah, Mane and Firmino have combined for 23 goals and 10 assists in 19 games. Meanwhile at Chelsea, Hazard has been directly involved in over 50 per cent of Chelsea’s Premier League goals (10 goals + 9 assists). And while that gives Sarri a lot to be happy about, it’s surely not a sustainable course of action if we want to get the best out of the team (and Hazard himself, who continues to prefer the wing).

“He can play as a winger, or in the centre. He can play in that position, he can score and open space for team-mates, I am very happy with his position. But he can play as a winger in the future of course.

“It depends on the moment. We need to be solid. It is a good option in the defensive phase. Maybe in the future we will be able to play in a striker.

“I was really confident. He is a great player, one of the most important in Chelsea’s history. I was confident he would score more.

“I am really very happy with him in this role. I don’t know if he prefers to play as a winger or striker, if he plays in a centre it’s not a problem.”

Considering how important Hazard has been, it’s even more concerning that we have not managed to convince him to sign the contract extension yet.

Sarri is as concerned about this as we are.

“I have not the power to decide, I am the coach. I speak to him only about the position on the pitch. I think we have to solve the problem.”

-Maurizio Sarri; source: Football.London

Indeed, there are plenty of problems to solve on and off the pitch. But if Chelsea can do so and put together a solid second-half of the season (unlike last season), things just might turn out okay.