In our look at the latest Chelsea-related news stories from the media, Slavia Prague defender Vladimir Coufal says he is not afraid of playing against Eden Hazard, Slavia’s club president laments the partial stadium closure for their ‘match of the decade’ against Chelsea and Christian Pulisic has returned to training after being sidelined for two weeks with a thigh injury.
These stories are samples pulled from external media sources. They do not represent the views or position of Chelsea Football Club.
Slavia defender not afraid of Hazard
Slavia Prague full-back Vladimir Coufal insists he has a great respect for Eden Hazard but is not afraid of playing against the Chelsea star in a game he describes as the biggest of his career.
The 26-year-old Czech international defender, who is set to return to action in the Europa League tonight after missing the 4-3 win against Sevilla in the round of 16 through suspension, is well aware of what the Belgian can do after watching his two-goal performance against West Ham on Monday.
But at the pre-match press conference, he said he was confident of his ability to contain whatever threat Hazard may pose at the Eden Arena.
‘I'm not afraid, but I have great respect for him,’ said Coufal, as reported by Slavia Prague’s official website.
‘We all know what a player he is when he can beat five defenders at once in the Premier League, so it would not be a surprise if he can do that to one defender who plays in the Czech league.
‘There's no reason to worry. I'll go into the game with respect, but I want to show him that we can play football too and I want to make him as uncomfortable as possible.’
Coufal recently played for the Czech Republic in an international friendly against Brazil but he said the match against the Blues is the biggest of his career so far.
‘This is for a chance to move to the semi-finals of the Europa League, so it is an important game and we will be playing with everything on the line,’ he added.
‘With all of the stars that Chelsea have, this will be the biggest match of my career and I hope we can handle it and get a good result.’
Slavia lament partial ground closure
Also speaking in the pre-match press conference was Slavia Prague club president Jaroslav Trvdik, who lamented UEFA’s decision to order the partial closure of the stadium for his club’s ‘match of the decade’.
Slavia were fined and ordered to close three sections of the Eden Arena for the Europa League quarter-final clash with Chelsea after their supporters set off fireworks, threw objects onto the pitch and blocked stairways in the goalless draw with Belgian side Genk in the round of 32 in February.
It is a decision that has not gone down well with supporters of the Czech club, who are appearing at this stage of the competition for the first time since 2000, when they met Leeds United in the last eight.
‘This is very difficult, because the fans who weren't able to get to the stands are very angry," said Tvrdik, as reported by the Press Association.
‘Everybody thinks we can do something special for them. I'm really, really sorry about this.
‘I've had about 150 phone calls and text messages. It's the match of the decade and the fact people are not able to be there is very sad.’
Tvrdik called for Slavia fans to be on their best behaviour to ensure that similar sanctions don’t happen again.
‘I am very optimistic we are on the same page that there is zero tolerance to the things I have stated tomorrow and that the match will pass off without incident,’ he said.
‘I would like to urge all the fans to support their team and players to show that our team is big and international and also that we have big international fans.
‘In the three years I've been working with the club we are in this situation for the first time. We will do everything we can to make sure football at this stadium is safe.’
Pulisic back in training
Borussia Dortmund reported on their website on Wednesday that Christian Pulisic has returned to training after being out for two weeks with a thigh injury.
The 20-year-old, who was signed by Chelsea in January and will link up with the Blues this summer, picked up the injury after scoring in the United States’ 1-1 draw with Chile in an international friendly last month.
While he did not join the main training group as they prepared for a crucial Bundesliga clash with Mainz this weekend, he was able to do some work on the ball and showed some impressive control skills in a Twitter video posted by the German club.