Mourinho coy over Hazard's absence
Belgian dropped for Chelsea's win over Schalke after apparently missing training
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was evasive when asked why attacking midfielder Eden Hazard had been omitted from his squad for the 3-0 win over Schalke in the Champions League.
The 22-year-old Belgium international has found form in recent weeks, but he watched from the stands at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday as Chelsea closed to within a point of the last 16.
Mourinho revealed prior to kick-off that Hazard had “missed a crucial training session”, but he replied enigmatically when pressed to explain what had happened.
Hazard was in France to watch former club Lille play Monaco on Sunday evening and there are suggestions that he returned late the following day, but Mourinho said he still expected him to feature in Saturday’s Premier League game at home to West Bromwich Albion.
“I don’t want to lie. He’s not injured,” Mourinho said.
Asked why Hazard had missed training, Mourinho suggested: “He forgot the time?”
He then added: “Let’s end the story. He’s a kid, kids make mistakes. And fathers have to be clever in the way they educate their sons.
“He didn’t play. He wanted to play, he’s sad because he didn’t play. We won without him and Saturday he’s back, so no story, or end of story.”
Mourinho also paid tribute to Samuel Eto’o, who scored Chelsea’s first two goals.
The Cameroon striker charged down a kick from dawdling Schalke goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand to break the deadlock and added a second before substitute Demba Ba completed the scoring.
The victory, Chelsea’s 100th in Uefa competition, left Mourinho’s side three points clear at the top of group E and needing just a draw from their penultimate game away to Basel to reach the last 16.
Eto’o has had a slow start to life at Chelsea since signing from Anzhi Makhachkala, but Mourinho believes he is now finding his feet.
“He was for two years playing without big motivations and when you play without big motivations, you train without big motivations, and you lose condition and you lose sharpness and you lose even appetite,” said the Portuguese.
“So it was not a surprise for me that he arrived here not in the best condition after two years in Anzhi. Now, step by step, he’s going.
“He’s 32, but naturally he’s a fit, slim guy; he’s not a heavy body. He’s intelligent, of course, and I think goals give confidence.”
Eto’o has been presented an opportunity by an adductor muscle injury suffered by Fernando Torres, but Mourinho said he expected to have the Spaniard available again after the international break.
“We hope that’s he back after the national teams, but of course no chance for this weekend and still a doubt to be back after,” he said.
“So it’s two or three weeks, muscular injury. Not the biggest one, but two, three weeks.”
Schalke coach Jens Keller defended Hildebrand over his mistake and pointed to his impressive recent displays in the 3-1 defeat by Borussia Dortmund and the 2-0 win at Hertha Berlin.
“What can you do about that?” Keller said.
“Apart from that one mistake, he played really well and he played really well in Berlin and against Dortmund. He’s 34, he knows what he’s done, it won’t bring him down and hopefully he’ll improve.”
Keller also revealed that attacking midfielders Julian Draxler and Kevin-Prince Boateng would have to be assessed by the club’s medical staff after both sustained knocks during the game.