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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

Eden Hazard urges Chelsea to take maximum points to win top four's 'hard war'

A tough spell has made way for successive wins, and Chelsea are now back in command of their top four destiny

Eden Hazard, left, set up Jorginho's winning goal for Chelsea against Fulham on Sunday. Reuters
Eden Hazard, left, set up Jorginho's winning goal for Chelsea against Fulham on Sunday. Reuters

Eden Hazard has said Chelsea are determined to win all of their remaining matches as the London club aim to win the "hard war" of claiming a place in the Premier League's top four.

Chelsea had looked in command of their top-four destiny early in the season, even placing themselves as unlikely title challengers, as Maurizio Sarri began his reign with a 12-match unbeaten run.

However, three defeats in the next six matches proved the start of a poor run of form, and while Chelsea bounced back to win three of their following four games, damaging losses to Arsenal, Bournemouth, and Manchester City across January and February appeared to derail their season and place Sarri's job in immediate danger.

But the landscape can quickly change in football, and successive wins, over Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham, combined with other results, have put Chelsea's top-four fate back into their own hands.

Still sixth in the table, Chelsea are two points behind fourth-placed Manchester United with a game in hand, which will be against struggling Brighton & Hove Albion.

With the fight for the top-four set to go down to the wire, Hazard revealed how - ahead of Sunday's 2-1 win at Craven Cottage - Chelsea were determined to take advantage of Tottenham and Arsenal only managing to collect a point each from the North London derby.

"We talked together in the dressing room about Arsenal-Tottenham. Both lost two points," Hazard, 28, told Chelsea TV. "Top four is a hard war, because we're not only four teams, we're six teams.

"Now we have [10] games to play till the end of the season. We'll try to take the maximum points."

Gonzalo Higuain continued his encouraging start to life at Chelsea when the striker on loan from Juventus opened the scoring. Calum Chambers, on loan at Fulham from Arsenal, did his parent club a favour by scoring the equaliser, only for Italian midfielder Jorginho to score a superb winner minutes later.

"The performance was great and we took three points," Hazard added.

Chelsea's next Premier League fixtures are against Wolves, Everton, Cardiff City and West Ham United, before the trip to title-chasing Liverpool on April 14. A date for their game in hand against Brighton is yet to be confirmed.

Sarri's position seemed precarious after the 4-0 loss at Bournemouth, 6-0 defeat at Manchester City and the FA Cup exit to Manchester United at Stamford Bridge which saw his 'Sarri-ball' style derided by home supporters.

Now Chelsea seem emboldened, and the galvanising effect could, somewhat ironically be attributed to goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, whose League Cup final insubordination appeared to cause further damage to Sarri's authority.

Sarri thought Kepa was injured, but the world's most expensive goalkeeper - a £71.6 million (Dh347m) buy from Athletic Bilbao - insisted he could play on. Manchester City went on to win the penalty shootout 4-3, after 120 minutes of goalless football in which Chelsea were arguably the better side.

It was initially seen as an act of defiance which undermined Sarri, but the 60-year-old Italian seems to be in a stronger position now, after Kepa was fined and dropped for the defeat of Spurs.

And Hazard has leapt to the defence of the 24-year-old Spaniard, who upon his reinstatement to the team was named man of the match following a string of fine saves against Fulham

"The week was not so easy for him, but he's a great goalkeeper and he's a great guy," the Belgian said.

Updated: March 4, 2019 04:30 PM

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