REUTERS - Chelsea manager Antonio Conte gave short shrift to media reports linking Eden Hazard with a move to Real Madrid and said the midfielder has recovered from a calf injury to play in Saturday’s Premier League match against Crystal Palace.
Hazard has been a key part of of Chelsea’s title push this season, scoring 11 goals and providing four assists, and the Belgian’s sparkling form has sparked interest from Real Madrid.
“The only thing that I can say to Eden is just to play. We are happy with him. He is happy with us,” Conte told reporters.
“This (rumours about Real) is part of the game, to create difficulty in the mind of the player.”
The 26-year-old Hazard missed Chelsea’s game against Stoke City this month and Belgium’s World Cup qualifier against Greece due to a calf injury.
“I‘m confident (he’ll be fit), not just to play but to play very good,” Conte said.
Chelsea are 10 points clear at the top of the table with 10 games left, but Conte is not taking the remaining fixtures for granted.
“At this time of the season, there are a lot of difficulties to overcome. There are 10 games to go and our opponents don’t want to accept that Chelsea are champions,” the 47-year-old Italian added.
Chelsea eked out a narrow 1-0 win over Crystal Palace in the reverse fixture in December and Conte expects another tough encounter.
“I remember the game against them earlier this season very well. We must pay great attention as in the last three games they won and in the last few games they are sixth (on form).”
Captain John Terry could make a league appearance for the first time since November as Conte said the 36-year-old defender had trained with the team this week.
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; editing by Mark Heinrich