Eden Hazard is looking forward to what he describes as a ‘massive derby’ against Tottenham later today at Stamford Bridge, and the Belgian has highlighted the importance of taking all three points to close the gap on the north London side...
The Blues are back in action for the first time since the international break, and it’s a fixture with plenty at stake in terms of the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League with Antonio Conte’s side, in fifth, currently trailing fourth-placed Tottenham by five points.
As we sit down with Hazard at our Cobham training ground, we ask the attacker if there is a confident mood among the squad going into the game.
‘Yes, especially after the game against Leicester which we won,’ he responds. ‘We had a couple of bad games last month but before we went away for the international break we wanted to reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup, and we did, so the confidence is back and everyone is focused on this game.
‘We know it’s a massive one if we want to reach our target of finishing in the top four. We’re ready to play a good game.’
Since signing for Chelsea in the summer of 2012 Hazard has been involved in some epic encounters against Tottenham, many of which have ended positively for the Blues. Six of the 12 matches he has played against our London rivals have ended in Chelsea victories, with four draws and two defeats.
‘I think in the last two or three years especially it hasn’t been easy to win against them,’ he says. ‘Their manager, Mauricio Pochettino, is very good, Harry Kane has been on fire and they have a lot of top players like Moussa Dembele.
'It’s a massive derby for the fans and a huge game for us. We are all focused. There is only one way for us to play and that’s to try to win the game. In France we say a derby is not like a normal game, it doesn’t matter how you play, you just need to win. When we play against Tottenham everybody thinks the same.’
The fixture is one which has tended to bring the best out of the Belgian, who has scored five goals against Spurs, most recently that stunning equaliser in a late-season 2-2 draw in 2015/16.
Hazard says the importance of the game ensures he always wants to try to have a decisive impact on proceedings.
‘We know, for the fans, especially at Stamford Bridge, it’s very important because there has been a big rivalry between us in the last few years,’ says the 27-year-old.
‘We drew against them when Leicester won the league, six years ago when Chelsea won the Champions League it put Tottenham out of it. We beat them in the League Cup final in 2015 so there have been some very good memories for us, which is why it makes the game so special.
‘The supporters put pressure on the players and it’s a good game to play in. I like the pressure and the fact the fans go crazy. For me, when we are on the pitch it’s the same, it doesn’t matter if you are playing Tottenham, Brighton or Swansea, you just go out on the pitch and try to win.’
Having just been away with Belgium, and their Tottenham contingent of Dembele, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, Hazard says there was a little bit of light-hearted discussion about today’s game.
‘When we are with Belgium we are focused on that, but of course I spoke with them and I told them to be ready because I’m sure it’s going to be a good game, like it always is,’ he laughs. ‘Obviously they have a lot of Belgian players as well so myself and Thibaut want to win against them.
‘It was good,' he adds, when asked about the international break. 'We only played one game against Saudi Arabia and we won 4-0. There was a good atmosphere, I provided an assist for one and Michy scored a beautiful goal as well, so we are full of confidence. I think we are unbeaten in 16 games so we’re happy and looking forward to the World Cup.’
Hazard has scored five times against Tottenham and we asked the Belgian to pick out his three favourite goals (which can be viewed in the video above) and talk us through them.
2014/15 – Won 3-0 at home
'This was a good game for us. We won 3-0. I didn’t play a lot of games with Didier Drogba but I know his qualities and when I saw him in front I passed to him. I did a movement and when he gave it back to me I was a little bit lucky with the finish because Hugo Lloris got a touch to it but the ball finished in the net. I saw the fans happy, it made it 1-0, so it was a great feeling.'
2015/16 – Drew 2-2 at home
'That’s one of my best goals for sure. Everybody remembers that game. There was a combination between myself and Diego Costa. I took the ball, turned, dribbled and played a one-two with Diego. He gave it back to me perfectly, it wasn’t easy to finish but I managed to do it really well. When you watch a goal like that back it makes you feel like you’re a good player because it’s not an easy goal to score.'
2016/17 – Won 4-2 at Wembley (FA Cup semi-final)
'I was on the bench and I came on with Diego when it was 2-2. It was a semi-final at Wembley against a good team. We were 1-0 up and then 2-1 up. It rebounded to me from a corner and I scored a good goal with my left foot. That was my first goal at Wembley.'