Tue | Oct 17, 2017

Hazard, symbol of Chelsea's decline

Published:Friday | March 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM

LONDON (AP):

From being voted player of the year to being booed by his own fans, Eden Hazard is the symbol of Chelsea's rapid regression and the upheaval engulfing a fallen power.

Hazard and his demoralised teammates will end the season without medals unless they win the FA Cup in May.

Lose at Everton in the quarter finals tomorrow and it will effectively be the end of a season that began with so much optimism, defending a Premier League trophy won by eight points. As the dressing room fractured, Jose Mourinho was fired in December and the champions are currently sitting in 10th place.

The FA Cup is Chelsea's last route back into Europe, albeit in the inferior Europa League, after being eliminated from the Champions League. Hazard, who was being touted as a future Ballon d'Or contender a year ago, was jeered while being substituted during Wednesday's 2-1 loss to Paris Saint-Germain.

"They had the right to do what they think," Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink said of the booing. "You can express always your feelings."

Swapping shirts with PSG rival Angel Di Maria on the field at half-time maybe wasn't the wisest move for reputed PSG-target Hazard. Not during a season when the winger has scored only twice both in the FA Cup after a 19-goal haul last season.

"It's not an excuse, but people have to think about the fact he started the game injured," Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic said in defence of Hazard. "Did that show how committed he is? Yes. Of course when you lose a game the fans are not happy and they have to be like that.

"But in my opinion it was one of his best performances so far. He was very strong and quick. He wanted to score and had a couple of actions where he looked like last season."

Hazard is a doubt for Sunday's game at Goodison Park after limping off in the second half against PSG. Striker Diego Costa is also being assessed.

 

ARSENAL-WATFORD

 

In the quest for a third successive FA Cup title, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is concerned about an injury list that lengthened during Tuesday's win at Hull in a fifth-round replay.

Aaron Ramsey has a thigh injury that could also keep him out of next week's Champions League game at Barcelona when Arsenal seek to overturn a 2-0 deficit.

"There is a small alert, we don't know how bad it is," Wenger said.

Defenders Per Mertesacker and Gabriel were also injured in the 4-0 win at Hull but Wenger reported yesterday: "There is nothing wrong there, they are both good."

 

MAN UNITED-WEST HAM

 

West Ham travel to Old Trafford on Sunday having the better season, sitting two points above United in fifth place in the Premier League.

While West Ham have enjoyed a complete week off, United will be coming of a Europa League game against Liverpool last night.

 

READING-CRYSTAL PALACE

 

Reading are the last remaining lower-league team in the competition.

And Reading manager Brian McDermott owes his managerial career to Crystal Palace counterpart Alan Pardew. As Reading manager in 2000, Pardew appointed McDermott as coach of the Under-17s and chief scout.

"He must have seen something in me," McDermott said. "I'll always be grateful."

Palace's FA Cup win at Tottenham in the fifth round was a rare bright moment, with the London club enduring a 12-game winless run in the league.

Second-tier club Reading are unbeaten at home in 2016.

"We know they have threats," McDermott said, "we know it wasn't long ago they were winning lots of games and don't forget they went to White Hart Lane, played one of the top teams, and won."