Nemanja Matic has defended himself and Eden Hazard, after the pair were brought back in from the cold to start for Chelsea against Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday night.
Both were dropped by manager Jose Mourinho for last Saturday’s 2-0 home win over Aston Villa. Matic had lasted just 27 minutes of Chelsea’s previous league game, against Southampton – Mourinho has since said he wants to rebuild the midfielder’s confidence – while Hazard was told in public he needed to do more defensive work.
The pair started in Kiev, though, and played well in a 0-0 draw. Both are likely to continue in Mourinho’s side for Chelsea’s trip to West Ham United on Saturday. Matic said afterwards that whatever anyone thought about his form, nobody could question his commitment.
“I try to give my best for the team, I try to do what the coach asks from me. Today [Tuesday], I think that I did what he wanted, what he asked from me,” Matic said. “So you have to ask him if he is happy with my game. I can say only that I try always to give my best.
“In my life I have never had a problem with any coach. Because all coaches respect that I am very professional, I do my best. With Mourinho it is the same.”
When Matic was asked if it was difficult to handle being taken off against Southampton, soon after brought on, and then being dropped, his answer was precisely worded: “I am professional, and I respect all decisions of the coach.
“Of course [my] confidence is not high, but not only for me,” Matic admitted. “The team is not in a good position in the Premier League, that is very difficult for us. But, game by game, we will be better and better.”
Hazard has been in a similar position to Matic, but the Belgium winger showed glimpses of his best on Tuesday, and Matic praised him afterwards. “Eden is a great guy, a great player, the best player in the league last year, and very important for us,” he said.
“For the rest, you’d have to ask the coach. I am very happy when I play with him. It’s very simple: you pass him the ball and he always does something. Tonight he almost scored a goal, and had some good actions. Eden is one of the best players in the world.”
Mourinho was last night waiting to hear from Uefa if he will face any punishment for calling referee Damir Skomina “weak and naïve” on Tuesday, but is confident that he can continue to use the phrase without sanction from the Football Association.
His comments after the game were barely directed at Skomina, but at Arsène Wenger, his Arsenal counterpart, and the FA.
Mourinho is incensed that he was fined £50,000 and given a suspended one-game stadium ban for saying that referee Bobby Madley was “afraid” to give Chelsea a penalty against Southampton, while Wenger went unpunished for what he felt were more critical comments about Mike Dean.
“It is difficult for me to understand when I compare different words,” Mourinho explained last week. “The word “afraid” is a punishment, and a hard punishment. But to say the referee was ‘weak and naive’, we can do.”
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