Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri hopes the injury that forced Eden Hazard off in the second half of the Blues’ Europa League win over Slavia Prague on Thursday is not a serious one, with the Belgian likely to be ready for Monday night’s game against Burnley.
Hazard came in for rough treatment from the Czech side during a topsy-turvy 4-3 win for Chelsea, in which they were 4-1 up at half-time but suffered a scare in the second half after a quick double strike from the visitors.
The playmaker took several hits to his ankle and went down in the first half, but carried on until the 65th minute after what seemed like a routine win suddenly looked in doubt as Prague came to within two goals of levelling the aggregate scores – Chelsea had carried a 1-0 lead from last week’s away leg – and pulling off a shock knockout of Sarri’s favoured side.
With a trip to Manchester United, direct rivals in the race for the Premier League‘s top four, to come after the Burnley fixture, any lengthy absence for Hazard could be fatal to Chelsea’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League – though the route of qualifying by winning the Europa League is still open.
However, Sarri believes there’s no need to fear a long layoff for his star player.
“Nothing serious, I hope,” Sarri said in his post-match press conference, as reported by Goal.
“It’s only a strong knock. But I think we can recover him for the next match.”
John Stones believes the quadruple is not an impossible dream for Manchester City.
City need to overturn a first-leg deficit against Tottenham in the Champions League on Wednesday to keep their bid for an unprecedented clean sweep of trophies alive.
City trail 1-0 on aggregate midway through the quarter-final tie after defeat in London last week.
Stones said: “I don’t think a lot of things are impossible, that is the mindset of different people.
“If you don’t dream big then you are not going to get anywhere near it. It comes from within everyone, we have this belief and ambition to do it.”
City are also involved in a close battle for the Premier League title with Liverpool. Stones is confident City can hit their stride in the run-in.
He said: “These sorts of games bring out the best in us. We have to trust in ourselves and our team-mates and perform on whatever day we have a game.
“We have five games left, everything to play for and we have to enjoy the pressure and roll with it and believe in ourselves.”
Manager Pep Guardiola is relishing the challenge ahead of City as they continue to push for glory on all fronts.
Guardiola said: “I know how difficult our fixtures are and we play Tottenham and then the derby at Old Trafford and Burnley.
“All the games are tough. We don’t have rest. We play nine, ten or 11 games more than Liverpool and I love this challenge.”
Guardiola feels the fans, as well as the players, have an important part to play on Wednesday.
He said said: “I want to see that they want to get to the semi-finals, not just the players, the fans too. I want to see that.”
Arsenal will prioritise finishing in the Premier League top four over their bid to win the Europa League, according to midfielder Granit Xhaka.
The Gunners moved up to fourth with an unconvincing 1-0 win against 10-man Watford on Monday night as Unai Emery looks to secure a return to Champions League football after just a season at the helm.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the only goal at Vicarage Road with 10 minutes gone as Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster dallied in possession and then struck his clearance straight onto the boot of the Gabon forward who was tearing down on him.
Moments later, Hornets skipper Troy Deeney was sent off after it was adjudged that he had caught Lucas Torreira with a flailing arm.
The win, just Arsenal’s sixth on the road in the league this season, was enough to take Emery’s side above both Chelsea and Manchester United ahead of Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg against Napoli.
Arsenal hold a 2-0 advantage heading to Naples, but Xhaka insists their main focus is on securing a top-four Premier League finish.
“I think we want to stay in the top four – we want to be back in the Champions League,” he said.
“I think, for me, the Premier League is first and after if you can go to the final and take the Europa League, of course it is nice as well but for us it is the Premier League first.
“I think for us the biggest game was last night, it is always like this. We are now in fourth place, two points over United, one game less than Chelsea and one point behind Tottenham and they play against Manchester City next week. It can be a big, big weekend for us.”
Deeney’s early dismissal should have been enough to ensure Arsenal collected a rare away win but Watford were the better team throughout and hit the woodwork twice as the FA Cup finalists chased a deserved equaliser.
But, at this stage of the campaign, Xhaka believes it is all about points and not performances, and he feels the Watford result will have no bearing on what happens in Italy on Thursday.
“I don’t care if we win 1-0 or 6-0, it is the same three points,” the Switzerland international added.
“For me, it is better if you play like this and you win, than when we have played away and played better games but not taken the three points. I am happy for this performance, but most important is the three points.
“I think against Napoli it is a different game. We had a good result at home, 2-0, but it will not be easy in Napoli as you have seen with Liverpool there or Paris (Saint-Germain).
“Napoli have a good team, especially with their fans, but 2-0 is a good result and I hope we can go to the semi-final.”
Watford were playing their first game since sealing a place in the FA Cup final with an extra-time Wembley win over Wolves.
Javi Gracia said after the game he was unsure why Deeney was sent off but will have been pleased with the effort of his players to remain in the contest.
Defender Craig Cathcart saw a shot turned onto the post by Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno – arguably man of the match – and the Northern Ireland international was proud of the team’s display.
“I don’t think this will affect us at all,” he told watfordfc.com.
“We’ve put in a great performance given the way things went in the first 15 minutes. We can be proud of how we played. It was difficult and we had to run a lot but we can be very proud of ourselves.
“We had 10 men but if anything it looked like they had the 10 men. We had more possession, we had decent opportunities to score and we’re really disappointed coming off the pitch with nothing from the game.”