LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said he is surprised Eden Hazard has been called up for international duty by Belgium on Friday, despite not being ready to return to Premier League action.
Hazard, who fractured his ankle while training with Belgium in June, was named in Roberto Martinez’s 28-man squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Gibraltar and Greece.
The forward will not feature for the Premier League champions at home to Everton on Sunday though, instead concentrating on his recovery in the under-23s.
“I knew only 30 minutes ago (of his Belgium call up). For sure I am a bit surprised about this decision,” Conte told reporters. “I was a coach in the Italy national team and I respect the decision of their coach.
“In this situation, it’s very important to give the right time to players to recover very well. If someone thinks to accelerate the process, it is not the right way. It is a great mistake. We must pay great attention not to make a mistake.”
It has been a tricky start to the season for Conte with the future of Spanish striker Diego Costa still unresolved and Hazard injured.
There has also been speculation that the Italian is unhappy with the club’s transfer activity, although last week’s 2-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur has at least given him something to cheer following their opening day defeat at home to Burnley.
Conte said the next few weeks would be vital and that the club were hoping to still be active in the transfer market before the window closes next Thursday.
“We are going to play seven games in a month, I need to rotate players. If someone is thinking I can use only 11 or 13 players, it is impossible. I have to rotate players. We must be ready to face this situation,” he said.
“For sure the club is trying to strengthen the team. They are working very hard to do this.
“The situation is this and you have to continue to work. If we continue with these players, I’m very happy.”
Chelsea face a tough task at home to Everton who have picked up four points from their opening two games, including a 1-1 draw at Manchester City.
“(Ronald) Koeman has built a really strong team. Everton last season were a strong team and this season they have improved a lot,” he said.
“We must pay great attention on Sunday.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge