Bournemouth (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Thibaut Courtois believes keeping Eden Hazard is key to Chelsea hopes of building on this season’s dominance of the Premier League title race.
Hazard confirmed his importance to Antonio Conte’s side with both goals in the 2-1 victory over Manchester City on Wednesday that moved Chelsea one step closer to the title ahead of Saturday’s trip to Bournemouth.
The Belgium forward has been linked with a move to Real Madrid, but Chelsea goalkeeper Courtois, Hazard’s international team-mate, is anxious to see the 26-year-old remain at Stamford Bridge and fire the west London club towards its next target.
The failure to qualify for European competition last year was a major setback for the club and they will return to the Champions League next season with a renewed hunger to challenge the biggest clubs on the continent.
“Eden is one of the best players in the world. Chelsea have ambitions to win the Champions League again and always look to play for the title,” Courtois said.
“If you want to do that, you need the biggest players and he is obviously a big part of that.”
The victory over City maintained Chelsea’s seven-point lead over second placed Tottenham with just eight games remaining.
Having faltered against Crystal Palace the previous Saturday, the win restored Chelsea momentum.
But Blues centre-back Gary Cahill insists nothing can be taken for granted when they visit Dean Court this weekend.
“We expect that Tottenham are going to push us all the way,” Cahill said. “They are never going to give up and we know that, so we just have to look after ourselves.
“We need to look at what we are doing and win our games.
“We have to show the same commitment and work-rate as against Manchester City, and also the ability.
“We match everyone doing the dirty stuff in the game – the hard work, the running back and the concentration. Our ability should take care of itself.
“We have some great players, we need to keep focused, we need to worry about what we are doing and try to get the job done.”
– Tough run –
Bournemouth’s performance at Liverpool this week suggests Chelsea will have to guard against another shock after Eddie Howe’s side continued their move away from the relegation zone with a 2-2 draw.
Josh King’s late goal extended Bournemouth’s unbeaten run to five games and defender Simon Francis believes there is a growing confidence within the side.
The improved sequence of results can be traced back to the 1-1 draw with Old Trafford which halted an alarming slide towards the relegation places.
And Francis is satisfied the club is now moving in the right direction, although the next two fixtures will test their progress.
“It’s a tough run for us, Liverpool and then Chelsea and Tottenham. The confidence we can take going into Saturday stands us in good stead,” Francis said.
“Going back to the Manchester United game and getting a point there just shows the character and team spirit in the squad that hopefully we can go on with and remain unbeaten.”
Howe echoed the views of his captain, saying: “The self-belief is massive. You need to go into games believing you can get results.
“We felt that before the game today. The lads are very confident at the moment.
“We’re five games unbeaten in the Premier League, which I believe is our longest run in this division.
“It’s a real confidence builder. We want to now continue that unbeaten run.”