1. ITV Report

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri wants more from star man Eden Hazard

Sarri has demanded more from his star man Photo: PA

Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri has followed the extraordinary criticism of his players with a less than favourable critique of Eden Hazard.

Hazard, in an interview with France Football this week, spoke about frustrating all his managers, with Sarri laughing when the comments were put to him while praising the Belgian playmaker in one moment and calling on him to do more the next.

Ahead of Thursday's Carabao Cup semi-final second leg with Tottenham, Sarri was asked if Hazard's words rang true.

"Sometimes. I prefer him when he speaks with his feet," the 60-year-old Italian said.

"The potential is higher than the performances, I think. He has to respect, first of all, himself. He has to do more."

Sarri rebuked his squad following last Saturday's Premier League loss to Arsenal, saying "this group of players are extremely difficult to motivate", and hinted at a lack of leadership.

Credit: PA

Hazard is Belgium's captain and has almost single-handedly propelled Chelsea to points this season, with 10 Premier League goals and 10 assists.

But Sarri, who has deployed Hazard as a 'false nine' of late to reduce the forward's defensive responsibilities, questioned his team ethic.

"Eden is at the moment a wonderful player, but he's an individual player. He's a very instinctive player," he added.

"He's very important for us, of course, because he's a great player. He always can win the match in two minutes, sometimes in one minute, but at the moment he's not a leader.

"For him it's very difficult to play only in one position. He wants the ball on the feet.

"For him, I think, it's very difficult to play as a striker, but it's very difficult to play also as a winger.

Credit: PA

"We have to organise the other 10 players in the defensive phase because he needs to play everywhere on the pitch."

Hazard remains Chelsea's talisman, for now. Sarri is not expecting a decision from the 28-year-old over whether to extend his contract, which expires in June 2020, or seek a "dream" move to Real Madrid until the summer.

Sarri added: "He's not decided yet if he wants to stay here or if he wants a new experience in another club. I don't know exactly the situation, but I think Eden at the moment doesn't know the final choice."

Sarri absolved himself of tactical blame following the loss to Arsenal, saying the attitude was the primary factor in the defeat.

Despite the previous experience of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte suggesting otherwise, Sarri cannot fathom why his comments after the meek surrender at the Emirates Stadium would generate a negative response.

"I cannot understand why," Sarri added.

"We need to react on the pitch. The rest is nothing. We discussed with the players how to try to improve the approach, the motivation, the determination, so we are trying to change something in training, in pre-match, in everything.

"I think we all have to react on the pitch, of course.

Credit: PA

"I know very well that the situation can change suddenly. Without a logical reason sometimes. It depends on the atmosphere, around the players.

"We have some players with the characteristics to be a leader - (Cesar) Azpilicueta, David Luiz - and so I think they can help all the other players to get the right mentality."

The Blues must overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Spurs to reach the February 24 final, without Gonzalo Higuain, whose deal was not completed by the 12noon registration deadline.

Sarri could continue with Hazard as the attacking focal point or select Olivier Giroud. Alvaro Morata is out of favour ahead of an anticipated departure.

Sarri laughed off reports he was angry with Andreas Christensen for leaving the substitutes' bench at Arsenal, without returning.

"I was worried, more than anything," Sarri added.

"On match days, Christensen always has stomach ache. He had to go to the toilet, so I don't know what to say."