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Conte surprised at Belgium call-up for injured Hazard

2.10K   //    25 Aug 2017, 19:07 IST
Eden Hazard - cropped
Eden Hazard playing Belgium in 2016

Antonio Conte is surprised by Roberto Martinez's decision to select Eden Hazard for Belgium duty despite the forward not being fit to play for Chelsea's first team.

Hazard is yet to feature for the Premier League champions this season due to an ankle injury suffered in June and has been taking part in Under-23 games as he seeks to regain full match sharpness.

The 26-year-old, though, was named by Martinez in the squad for World Cup qualifiers against Gibraltar and Greece and will now be obliged to link up with the national team and undergo an examination by Belgium's medical staff.

"I'm a bit surprised by this decision," Conte told a news conference ahead of Sunday's league game at home to Everton.

"I was a coach of the national team with Italy but I respect the decision of the other coach.

"If Hazard is fit, then he can play [for Belgium]. [But] if [he] is ready, why does he not play with us?

"I hope after the international break to have the whole team [fit] and to think about Hazard.

"I see him every day. It's very important to give him the right time to recover very well. He's an important player for us."

Chelsea have signed Antonio Rudiger, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Alvaro Morata and Willy Caballero since winning the title last season but there have been suggestions Conte is unhappy at a lack of further transfer activity. 

"The club is working hard to strengthen our team and squad," he said.

"My focus is only on the pitch. Then we will see what happens at the end of the market.

"It's not important to feel strong [in the squad]. It's important to show to be strong on the pitch.

"The club knows very well what is my idea, but my focus is to improve my players on the training pitch."

Questioned about links with Swansea's experienced Spanish striker Fernando Llorente, who played under Conte at Juventus, the Italian replied: "I don't like to speak about players on other teams. I think it's a lack of respect."

Regardless of whether or not Chelsea do bring in more players in the week ahead, Conte knows he will have to rotate his team more often in 2017-18, the club having returned to the Champions League after a rare absence last term.

The Blues were pitted against Atletico Madrid, Roma and Qarabag in Thursday's draw in Monco. 

"It is a tough group but when you play this competition, you must be prepared for the best teams in Europe," he said.

"If someone is thinking I can use only 11 players or 13 players, it's impossible.

"It's a challenge for me but [also] for the club, for the fans. We think with 'us', not with 'I'. We are trying to strengthen our squad."

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