Chelsea FC vs Leicester City: Guus Hiddink backs Eden Hazard to shine for Chelsea next season

Posted Sunday, May 15, 2016 by PA

Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink has scarcely benefited from Eden Hazard's return to form - but believes the Belgium playmaker can prove the difference for Antonio Conte.

Hazard won numerous individual awards as the leading light in Chelsea's Barclays Premier League and Capital One Cup double in 2014-15 but, like the team's, his decline this season has been alarming.

The 25-year-old, who has been troubled by a hip and groin problem, is finding form just as the campaign concludes against Leicester, Chelsea's successors as champions, on Sunday. Chelsea can finish ninth at best.

Hazard has scored four times in the last four games. The run began with his first league goals of the season at Bournemouth and included the goal against Tottenham which saw Leicester crowned champions.

"I'm pleased for this moment but I would have been more pleased if it could have happened in February," Hiddink said.

"It's important for him and for Chelsea that he's almost back on his level where he can play and he's enjoying it.

"That's good for the future, for himself, for the Belgium team and for Chelsea. He's one of the key figures in Chelsea. Not just him, that would be too much of a burden.

"But he can be on top of a very well organised foundation, he can be the man who can make a lot of difference in the game."

Hazard felt culpable in the December sacking of Jose Mourinho, due to his dip in form, but he was not alone in underperforming.

With Chelsea out of the FA Cup and Champions League and adrift of European contention in the league, Hiddink was able to be patient in bringing Hazard back to full fitness.

Belgium could benefit at this summer's European Championships finals, where Conte will lead Italy before joining Chelsea as Mourinho's permanent successor.

"After his splendid season before, he's had a difficult season," Hiddink said of Hazard.

"It was not (just) physically a problem for him but in a mental part. It's frustrating when you've been the player of the year and the next year you are almost out.

"We brought him back with care, starting with a full-time game against Bournemouth and then, in a more intense game, half against Spurs, and he responded very well.

"We can be very happy with him and the team performance against Liverpool. He has come back to his level. He can be improving as he gets more game rhythm in the upcoming time."

John Terry is suspended for what could be his Stamford Bridge farewell.

Thibaut Courtois has recovered from illness, so could displace Asmir Begovic in goal, and defender Branislav Ivanovic (groin) has returned to light training and could come into contention.

Diego Costa (hamstring) is out, alongside fellow striker Loic Remy (groin) and defender Kurt Zouma (knee).

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri has urged his side to play like the champions they are.

The Foxes were crowned Barclays Premier League winners last week and will parade the trophy through the city's streets on Monday evening.

Against his former club, Ranieri wants Leicester to prove they are worthy winners.

"[Against Everton] I asked to them to show me what we learned during all the season," he said. "Always I've said the result is not important but it's the importance of the performance, how you play.

"Now we are champions, we have to play like champions. The answer was fantastic. On Sunday, I don't want the result, I want to see my players show the same attitude and I am happy."

Chelsea are expected to give the Foxes a guard of honour before the game - bringing back memories for Ranieri of when he left Stamford Bridge in 2004.

He was leaving - to be replaced by Jose Mourinho - after four years in charge and remembers how the players gave him an emotional send-off.

The Italian said: "My players gave me a guard of honour. [Marcel] Desailly and [John] Terry called all their team-mates together because they knew my job had finished there.

"That was the first time. I think it was one of the more important moments of my sporting life.

"They did it on the pitch. Gary [Staker, Ranieri's translator at the time] called me to the centre of the pitch and the players made the guard of the honour so when I turned around I saw, it was amazing."

Victory at Stamford Bridge would be Ranieri's 100th in the Barclays Premier League and, ahead of his return to west London, he had a message for the home fans.

"I want to thank the Chelsea fans. I watched some of them hold up placards with 'Do it for Ranieri' on. It was amazing," he added.

Robert Huth remains suspended for Leicester but Danny Drinkwater returns after his ban.

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