Thomas Tuchel is in no doubt that Eden Hazard is still a huge threat despite his struggles for Real Madrid as he prepares to face his old team for the first time.
Chelsea will travel to Spain on Tuesday for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final where their former player – and record sale – Hazard is waiting for them.
But the Belgian star has struggled since leaving Chelsea, managing just one goal in all competitions last campaign and only managing three goals this season.
Injuries have been the major issue for Hazard at Real and he has missed 11 of Real’s last 13 La Liga games with a muscle problem, only making his return off the bench against Real Betis on Saturday.
Hazard will likely be on the bench once again when the blues come visiting, with Vinicius Junior expected to start, but Tuchel is in no doubt about the danger he poses and has spoken to his players about him.
Asked if he has discussed Hazard with his players, and whether the Spanish team are stronger with or without him in the team, Tuchel replied: ‘Well Eden is a top-quality player.
‘He was the key player here for many, many years in this club and this league – which is one of the hardest in the world and a tough one if you decide matches so consistently like Eden did for this club here.
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‘So I have the biggest respect for him. Of course we talk a lot because he’s a big player for this club and of course we have many people here in the staff who know him very well.
‘And it’s not only that we talk about him because we play him, but we talk about the experience and how this club grew and the experience and the big games they had and the clashes they had in the league and in Europe.
‘And like I said, he was a key player for this club. Now he plays for Real Madrid and obviously he’s fit and he had a comeback in the last game for some minutes to be ready tomorrow.
‘If he plays, I’m pretty sure he wants to make a point and wants to prove [something]. Let’s see. ‘Do I prefer with him or without him? No. They can leave the spot open I have no problem with that, and they can play with 10! They will not do this.
‘They have so many quality players, we’re talking about Real Madrid and we have to face the challenge with confidence.’