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Conte: Improving at the right pace

At his press conference to preview Sunday’s game against Everton, Antonio Conte discussed Eden Hazard’s ongoing recovery, which tonight will include an appearance for our development squad.

The Belgian is set to play against a less experienced Everton side than the first team will face this weekend with kick-off at Aldershot set for 7.05pm. The game is live on Chelsea TV and Youtube, and Conte explained why Hazard is featuring.

‘He is improving,’ the boss reported. ‘Today he is playing for the Under-23s against Everton. But he is not fully fit.

‘I see him every day and I repeat in this situation it’s very important to give the right time to players to recover very well, also because Hazard is an important player for us.

‘If someone thinks to accelerate the process, it’s not the right way. It’s a great mistake. We must pay great attention to not make mistakes at this moment.’

Hazard was named in the Belgium squad shortly before Conte’s press conference began. In it, the boss was asked how he would feel if Hazard played for his national team.

‘I knew the news 20 minutes ago. For sure I am a bit surprised about this decision. I respect the decision of the other coaches.

‘If Hazard is ready to play [for Belgium] why is he not playing with us, and is playing for the Under-23s to continue to improve his form?’

Regarding the transfer window, which closes a week today, Conte reiterated what he has been saying regularly in the past few weeks: that the club are working hard to strengthen the squad; that he is focused on doing his best on the training pitch with the players available to him; and if we head into September with the current group, he will be ‘very happy’.

This Sunday, it’s all about getting another three points following last weekend’s win at Wembley. Conte knows the revamped Toffees will present another stiff challenge.

‘Ronald Koeman has built a really strong team. Everton were also a strong team last season. This season they improved a lot and we must pay great attention on Sunday. This game will be difficult for us.

‘In an emergency situation, a difficult situation, we were able to win against a really strong team like Tottenham. We must be very happy for the spirit, the desire we showed. We sent a really good message to us. 

‘It’s very important after a really good win over Tottenham to continue in this way.’

Asked about the Champions League group stage we were drawn in yesterday, Conte described it as tough but said that was expected in a competition of such calibre. Having managed Italy for a Euro 2016 qualifier away to Azerbaijan, he is well aware of the distance we must travel to play Qarabag.

After this weekend, international football takes over for 10 days. When we return to action, first at Leicester, it will be all systems go with every midweek occupied until the following pause in club football.

‘First of all, I hope after the international break to have the whole team [available], in this case also to have the possibility to start to think about Hazard, but I’m not sure about this.

‘Then we are going to play seven games in a month. I need to rotate the players because if anyone thinks I can only use 11 or 13 players, it’s impossible.

‘I have to rotate these players, but we must be ready to face this situation.

‘Every challenge is for me, the club, the players and the fans. We think with us, not with I. This is very important.’

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