Fulham vs Chelsea: Eden Hazard relishing the 'war' of Premier League top four chase

From beleaguered to bullish, Maurizio Sarri's Blues now scent Champions League qualification

Matt McGeehan
Monday 04 March 2019 11:09
Maurizio Sarri on Fulham vs Chelsea

Eden Hazard says Chelsea are ready for the "war" of the race for the Premier League top four.

What a difference a week makes. From beleaguered to bullish, Maurizio Sarri's Blues now scent Champions League qualification.

Hazard says that, ahead of Sunday's 2-0 win at Fulham, the Blues discussed taking advantage of Tottenham and Arsenal dropping points in Saturday's North London derby.

"We talked together in the dressing room about Arsenal-Tottenham. Both lost two points," Hazard said. "Top four is a hard war, because we're not only four teams, we're six teams.

"Now we have 11 games to play till the end of the season. We'll try to take the maximum points."

The win over Fulham, with goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Jorginho, two points adrift of fourth spot with a game in-hand on each of their top-four rivals.

"The performance was great and we took three points," Hazard added.

Sixth-placed Chelsea have 56 points, five behind third-placed Spurs, who they beat 2-0 last Wednesday.

Fourth-placed Manchester United are two points better off than the Blues, who trail Arsenal by one point.

Chelsea's next Premier League fixtures are against Wolves, Everton, Cardiff and West Ham, before the trip to title-chasing Liverpool on April 14. Their game in-hand is at home to Brighton.

Sarri's position seemed precarious after the 4-0 loss at Bournemouth, 6-0 defeat at Manchester City and the FA Cup exit to Manchester United at Stamford Bridge which saw his 'Sarri-ball' philosophy derided by home supporters.

Now Chelsea are emboldened. The galvanising effect could be attributed to Kepa Arrizabalaga, who refused to be substituted in the Carabao Cup final with Manchester City with penalties looming.

Chelsea had began to slip away from fourth place

Sarri thought Kepa was injured, but the world's most expensive goalkeeper - a £71.6million buy from Athletic Bilbao - insisted he could play on. City won the shootout 4-3.

It was initially seen as an act of defiance which undermined Sarri, but the 60-year-old Blues boss seems to be in a stronger position now, after Kepa was fined and dropped for the defeat of Spurs.

Hazard added: "The week was not so easy for him, but he's a great goalkeeper and he's a great guy."

Kepa made some fine saves at Fulham, where Jorginho's first goal from open play for Chelsea proved decisive.

The midfielder has had his detractors, due to his close relationship with Sarri, but 10 days after coming on to boos against Malmo, he was cheered off at Craven Cottage.

Hazard insists Jorginho is "doing very well" and "gives tempo to the game".

"We need this kind of player," Hazard added.

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