Eden Hazard is set to complete his Stamford Bridge return by starting for Real Madrid against his former club Chelsea on Wednesday night, with manager Zinedine Zidane claiming it would be a “great time” for the Belgian to ignite his career with the Spaniards.
Hazard has not returned to Chelsea since joining Real for £130million two years ago and has suffered recurring injury problems at the Spanish club, which has stopped him showing his best form.
Hazard made a substitutes’ appearance in Real’s Champions League semi-final first-leg draw against Chelsea last week and Spanish sources now expect him to start the second leg.
Asked if this would be the perfect time for Hazard to “flick a switch” on his Real career, Zidane replied: “It is a great time for it and I think he is prepared, and that’s very good for us.
“We are going to need Eden. We know what a good player he is and he is definitely going to be helping the team. Tomorrow, he is going to bring his game and show what he wants to do out there.”
Unlike goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who will also start against his former club, Hazard left Chelsea on extremely good terms and remains extremely popular among former team-mates and even directors.
The 30-year-old scored 110 goals and provided 92 assists in 352 appearances for Chelsea, during which he won two Premier League titles, two Europa Leagues, the FA Cup and the League Cup.
Despite his affinity to the club, sources close to Hazard believe he is determined to put on a show against Chelsea and do everything in his power to fire Real into the Champions League final.
And another former Chelsea player, Romelu Lukaku, has revealed that he, Courtois and Hazard have been plotting how Real can break the hearts of the Blues and arrive at European Championships for Belgium on the back of successful seasons.
Lukaku, who won the Serie A title with Inter Milan and is a summer target of Chelsea, said: “I have spoken with Courtois and I will speak with Eden. I know what Eden wants to do. I hope that he will win the Champions League and La Liga, and be 100 per cent ready for the Euros.”
Other than preparing for the return of Hazard, Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel insists his team will be ready for the return of Real captain Sergio Ramos, who missed the first leg through injury.
Ramos is part of the Real squad and Tuchel said: “Does Ramos play or not? This is a tough question, because I simply don’t know it. Does it change a lot for Real Madrid? Yes, he’s their captain.
“So it changes a lot but we cannot lose our heads about this decision.I think that he will start, we will prepare for that and we have to make sure that he cannot do it alone.”
Tuchel denied a report that he is on the verge of extending his contract that will have a year to run at the end of this season, saying: “There is no time and there is no need.”
Antonio Rudiger will play in a protective mask after missing the victory over Fulham with the facial injury he suffered at the end of the first leg against Real.