Chelsea boss Antonio Conte says Eden Hazard is fit enough to start in Sunday’s London derby against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.
The midfielder has only made two substitute appearance for the Blues so far this season following an ankle injury, but played more than 30 minutes in the 6-0 Champions League victory over Qarabag on Wednesday.
Hazard has also featured in two World Cup qualifiers for Belgium, and Conte is confident that the 26-year-old’s return has been properly managed.
“For sure he is improving,” Conte said at a news conference on Friday. “To have this type of patience is paying off.
“He is very close to being totally fit and we have to continue in this way.
“I have to make decisions for the best of the team and the best for the players. He is improving a lot and he is very close to being 100% fit.”
Conte expects a tough game against Arsenal, who came from behind to beat German side Cologne in the Europa League this week.
“Arsenal is one of the top six teams in England. They have a really good squad to fight for something important – the title in England,” the Italian said.
“It is a massive game. Against Arsenal it is always a massive game. Anything can happen and we must pay great attention and play a great game against a rival.”
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‘Chelsea are better than Arsenal and have a harmonious dressing room’
Chelsea will benefit from their “harmonious” dressing room to beat Arsenal on Sunday, according to Graeme Le Saux.
Antonio Conte’s champions host their London rivals at Stamford Bridge this weekend after recovering from an opening-day loss to Burnley by beating Tottenham, Everton and Leicester.
Meanwhile, Arsenal have won two Premier League games from four – with their two defeats coming on the road against Stoke and Liverpool.
With the Gunners having also lost their last five visits to Stamford Bridge, Le Saux believes Chelsea are favourites to win the London derby on Sunday because the champions are better on the pitch and have a better atmosphere within the squad.
Speaking exclusively to Betfair, Le Saux said: “Arsenal finally got back to winning ways in the Premier League but they face one of the toughest away trips the top-flight has to offer and I think this one will end in a home win.
“Not only are Chelsea playing better on the pitch but they have the benefit of a harmonious dressing room and you just can’t say that about Arsenal.
“A 3-0 defeat of Bournemouth brought a bit of welcome calm to the club but there are lots of unanswered questions there with the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mezut Ozil unresolved and the fan base split on who is to blame and who can solve it.
“That will be the backdrop for every Arsenal game for the season I’m afraid.
“From a player’s perspective it is an unsettling situation. You just want to focus on training, recovering and playing the next match, and any distraction is a negative.”