Eden Hazard has told L’Equipe that Chelsea’s Champions League elimination could be a “blessing in disguise” as they look to close in on the Premier League title.Hazard, 24, was unable to prevent his side from slipping out of Europe’s premier club competition as they succumbed to Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 earlier this month.
Their exit was all the more surprising given that they played nearly 90 minutes of the second leg at Stamford Bridge with a one-man advantage, and twice went in front before being pegged back to a 2-2 draw that took PSG through on away goals.
However, with Jose Mourinho’s men six points clear at the top of the Premier League table and with a game in hand, Hazard believes there are at least some positives to take out of their European elimination.
“We were a little disappointed. At home, against 10 men, when you lead twice you should qualify,” he said. “But on the other hand, if we had gone through to the quarterfinals, the fixture list would have been so hard to try and continue on all fronts. It is perhaps a blessing in disguise. We could have lost everything.
“Over the two games, Paris deserve their qualification. They played better than we did. Now, we only have the league. Our Champions League exit has not left a scar. We are going to have to win as many matches as possible to win a second trophy after the League Cup. That would be a good season.”
Chelsea were followed out of Europe by Premier League rivals Manchester City and Arsenal to leave England without a Champions League quarterfinalist for only the second time since the 1995-96 campaign.
“The English league takes so much energy. After that, it’s hard to move onto the European competitions,” Hazard said. “When you know that, at the weekend, you have a difficult game at West Ham, at Stoke, at Hull, and that you have to play a top European team in the week…
“It’s also just a bad year. We weren’t lucky. Arsenal played a really good second game against Monaco. They could have gone through, just like us.”
Although continental success will evade Chelsea this season, they could add the Premier League title to their Capital One Cup success from earlier in the campaign.
Hazard has played a major role, providing 11 goals and six assists in the league so far — just shy of the 14 strikes he netted and seven goals he teed up last season, which was his best since his 2012 move from Lille.
“I’m happy with it, as I was last season,” he said. “I am continuing my apprenticeship. People expect Eden to score 30 to 40 goals a season. I don’t think about doing that, I’m not like that.
“If there is a point on which I can work, it’s of course to be more clinical — to play more for myself, to score goals. But I am having a great season. I will perhaps have two trophies, and that will be great.
“Yes [I will improve], because I play with and against great players. I have to up my game. I am gaining in experience. There are big games every weekend. Each year, I discover new qualities. This season, I am scoring with the head. Who would have thought it? I have improved.”