Steve Holland has detailed what messages the management staff have been passing on to the players ahead of a crucial run of fixtures.
Today’s game with Sunderland precedes pivotal matches away to Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, and our assistant first team coach is keen to emphasise that despite the significance of the next few games there has been no special approach adopted ahead of today’s game.
‘You’ve got to deal with the next game first,’ said Holland. ‘If you take your eye off the ball then you trip up. The focus is very much on the next game, and that’s Sunderland.
‘The build-up has been similar to normal. Jose is constantly on to the players about the importance of the performance and winning, looking for different ways to motivate individuals and the group for every match. It hasn’t been any different in the lead-up to this game.
‘Obviously this next period is a crucial period and the most important message has been that we will need everybody in our group. It’s important that the players understand that.
‘We won’t get through this process with 11 or 12 players. It’s a group of games where we will need everybody and they need to accept and understand that, and give everything when their opportunity arises.’
One player who won’t be able to contribute to the cause this afternoon is Eden Hazard, who is yet to fully recover from the calf injury he sustained against PSG 10 days ago. Holland gave a detailed update on the Belgian’s fitness.
‘He hasn’t trained yet. That doesn’t definitely rule him out of the game on Tuesday which suggests that he’s obviously close. It’s really a day-by-day one at the moment. For him to be considered for Tuesday he obviously needs to train with the group very quickly.
‘Normal procedure would be you wouldn’t ask a player to play in a game that hasn’t done some sort of training prior to that. Therefore it’s a tight period where to be made available for that game he needs to train with the group in the next couple of days.
‘The injury is very low on the calf; normally if I said calf you would think of that ball below your knee. It’s lower than that – almost at the back of his achilles – and it’s quite deep, so it’s an unusual calf injury.
‘The consideration will be what’s best for the individual first and foremost. If he’s not going to be available, if we can give him a better chance of being involved for next Sunday’s game then that would be the criteria we would work to.’
In recognition of his fine form Hazard was nominated for both the PFA Player of the Season award and the PFA Young Player of the Year award yesterday , acknowledged by Holland.
‘Eden has made outstanding progress this season. There are only three things a player can do when you get down to the nitty-gritty – make goals, stop goals, score goals. There’s nothing else.
‘This year he has improved at stopping goals and improved at making and scoring goals. There has been a significant improvement in each area when it comes to the three productive elements to his performances. He’s had a major impact on our season to date.
‘You have to remember of course that he’s only a young man. Our expectations are high. It was his first year in the Premier League last year and you would hope there would have been an improvement this year and again next year.
‘I can only repeat he has had a major impact on our season and has improved significantly in all areas, with more room to come.’
– Join Ben Andrews and Jason Cundy for Pre-Match at the Bridge on Chelsea TV from 4.30pm today. Sky customers can tune in to channel 421 and watch the show for free.