Eden Hazard will step up his return from a back injury when Chelsea take on BATE in Belarus on Thursday, head coach Maurizio Sarri has confirmed.
Chelsea are on the verge of qualification for the Europa League knockout stage after winning all of their first three matches while conceding only one goal, despite using Hazard only sparingly in the competition so far.
But the Belgian has played only 26 minutes in the Blues’ last four games after suffering the back problem against Manchester United last month, coming on as a second-half substitute to make a positive impact in Saturday’s hard-fought 3-1 win over Crystal Palace.
As a result, Sarri believes it is best for his superstar to play in Borisov and regain his rhythm.
“From our doctor there is no risk [to select him],” Sarri said. “Otherwise he stays at Cobham. In the last match he played 30 minutes, the best for tomorrow is that he plays 45 to 50 minutes.”
Cesc Fabregas was part of the 20-man Chelsea squad that travelled to Belarus on Wednesday despite suffering with a fever, but Sarri revealed that Alvaro Morata has remained at Cobham to rest after his two-goal showing against Palace; the striker has netted five times in his last six Blues appearances in all competitions.
“He [Morata] played for three matches in a row, so I thought it was better to rest at Cobham and have good training,” Sarri said. “Morata stayed in Cobham just to rest, and then just to have training. I think it is better for him to stay fit with two or three training [sessions] than only with matches. It is normal.
“Sometimes it is better than to rest than always play. To train and [preserve] physical qualities. If they only play they will lose that physical quality.”
Olivier Giroud is available again after recovering from what Sarri described as “leg fatigue,” but Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz, Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses have been left in London as the Italian prepares to heavily rotate his team.
Academy prospects Ethan Ampadu, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Marcin Bulka have been included in the travelling squad and could be given a chance to play.