Eden Hazard needs to have more trust in himself to return to his best level, says Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti.
Belgium forward Hazard started just his ninth game of the season in the 3-1 victory over Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, a match in which he and fellow forwards Rodrygo Goes and Mariano Diaz struggled for fluidity.
After that game Ancelotti gave his backing to Hazard, who has struggled to consistently hit top form and been blighted by injuries since his big-money move from Chelsea in May 2019.
And the Italian struck a similar tone when addressing the media prior to Saturday’s home LaLiga clash with Valencia.
“His physical condition is quite good, he just needs to trust himself, to have more trust [in his ability],” Ancelotti said.
“I think he is really close to his best level and we hope we can see it again, see his best matches again.”
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Hazard’s lack of starts has also been affected by the supreme form of Vinicius Jr this season.
The Brazil forward has 12 goals and seven assists from 25 appearances in all competitions this term, both higher than an expected goals and assists rate of 9.16 and 5.49 respectively.
He has also created 51 chances, four of which are defined as ‘big chances’ by Opta, with only two LaLiga players registering more across all competitions in 2020-21.
Vinicius has not featured in the early throes of 2022 after contracting coronavirus but is back in contention to face Valencia – where Madrid are aiming to put right last week’s loss to Getafe – after testing negative.
Ancelotti talked up the attacker’s talents but said it is wrong to suggest Madrid rely on Vinicius.
“Well I don’t think we depend on him, he has performed really well in the first half of the season but not just him also [Karim] Benzema, [Eder] Militao,” Ancelotti added.
“I think we cannot focus on just one player. He’s been really important. He’s back, everyone is really happy about that.
“In one-on-one [situations] he’s important, also on the counter-attack. He’s been a really regular player, scored a lot of goals, so he has given us a lot of things. If you give him some space he’s quite dangerous.”
Following the Valencia game, Madrid travel to Saudi Arabia for the Supercopa de Espana, where they first face Barcelona in the semi-finals.
Gareth Bale is still out this weekend, with Ancelotti explaining he has a back issue, and is unsure whether the Wales superstar will travel with the rest of the squad for the Supercopa.
“Well we still don’t know, he’s not ready for the gave versus Valencia,” Ancelotti said of Bale.
“[Dani] Carvajal, [Luka] Jovic and Mariano aren’t either. Carvajal will travel to Arabia, Jovic probably too – let’s see if he can test negative [for COVID] in the next few days. Let’s see with Gareth Bale and Mariano too.”
On Bale, Ancelotti added: “He has an issue in the back, he is not feeling well, he cannot push 100 per cent so until he doesn’t feel pain he cannot be used by me.”