Eden Hazard will not be rushed back for Real Madrid’s Champions League quarter-final first leg against Liverpool on Tuesday, insists Zinedine Zidane.
Hazard has been plagued by injuries since joining Madrid from Chelsea for €100million in June 2019.
He has made just 36 appearances and 29 starts across all competitions in that time, scoring only four times.
The 30-year-old returned from injury in March but then missed the Champions League last-16 second leg against Atalanta with a damaged hip flexor – a development Zidane described as “inexplicable”.
That injury kept him out of the Belgium squad for the recent international break and Zidane says he has no intention of playing Hazard against Premier League champions Liverpool if he is not 100 per cent fit.
“Eden has to be calm,” the Madrid boss told a media conference on Monday. “We never risk the return of a player if he is not well.
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“We will do things little by little and we will see when he will be with us. At the moment it is like that.
“I need all my players to be available and fit. I like my players to be fit and in good health. I don’t like seeing players out injured. We have had a lot of players out injured this season.
“I hope to have Eden back soon. I hope to have a fully fit squad come the end of the season.”
Tuesday’s clash will be the first between the sides since the 2018 final, which Madrid won 3-1 to seal a third consecutive Champions League trophy.
Los Blancos have won the first leg in eight of their last nine Champions League knockout ties, while they have claimed victories in their last three matches against the Reds in the competition.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, however, has won each of his last five games at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League, including all four of his games at this stage while in charge of the Reds.
Zidane is an admirer of what Klopp has achieved at Anfield, but says he is not interested in copying the German’s methods.
“Klopp is a great manager, he has been coaching for a long time,” he added. “He’s got a great CV and has done superbly at Liverpool.
“I don’t have to look at what he does and copy him. Everyone has their way of going about things but I look at all the managers.
“I looked and learned when I was going to be a manager and, of course, I analysed Klopp.”
Liverpool will need to be particularly wary of Madrid talisman Karim Benzema, who has scored four goals in his three Champions League appearances against them.
He is level with Didier Drogba as the player to have scored the most against the Reds in the competition.
Benzema should lead the line on Tuesday and Zidane has attributed his success to the understanding he has developed with his team-mates.
“All the players who are here know how to play and have earned the right to be in this squad, they are the best,” he explained. “They all understand Karim well and Karim the others. There is a lot of chemistry between them.”
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