Jose Mourinho says substituting Eden Hazard during the 4-0 Champions League Group G victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv on Tuesday was not a slight on the Belgium international’s performance.
Mourinho appeared to be frustrated as Hazard made a slack pass during the second half at the Sammy Ofer Stadium and the player made way for Pedro shortly afterwards in the 69th minute.
Chelsea were labouring at that stage, 1-0 up against 10 men, before a customarily brilliant Willian free-kick sparked further late goals from Oscar and Kurt Zouma.
Speculation over a possible rift between Mourinho and Hazard, last season’s PFA and Football Writer’s Player of the Year, have accompanied Chelsea’s dire start to their Premier League title defence.
There is an apparent difference of opinion over Hazard’s best playing position, with Mourinho stating this week that he preferred to use him as a winger while the player favours the number 10 role.
But the Chelsea boss was quick to dismiss any notion of him being dissatisfied with Hazard’s efforts in Israel, explaining that he wanted to spare him from fatigue and expose a tiring Maccabi defence to the pace of former Barcelona winger Pedro.
“I had Pedro on the bench, and that is important,” Mourinho said, as quoted on Chelsea’s official website.
“If I did not have Pedro on the bench then I don’t think I could improve on Hazard’s performance for the last 20 minutes of the match.
“But when I have Hazard with 90 minutes against Norwich [last] Saturday and 70 minutes against Maccabi on a pitch that doesn’t help, and I have Pedro fresh and I see the Maccabi right-back in trouble, tired and with cramps.
“I decided to give a hard time to him and bring Pedro on. I made the change because I had Pedro.”
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