Chelsea boss Sarri backs Eden Hazard to score 40 goals after Cardiff hat-trick
Hazard bagged a fine hat-trick as Chelsea thumped Cardiff 4-1 at Stamford Bridge.
Maurizio Sarri has tipped Eden Hazard to score 40 goals for Chelsea this season.
Belgium playmaker Hazard bagged a fine hat-trick as Chelsea thumped Cardiff 4-1 at Stamford Bridge, to move top of the Premier League on goal difference.
New boss Sarri became just the fourth man to win his first five matches in the Premier League, as the Blues extended their 100 per cent record in style.
Italian Sarri then revealed he told Hazard on Friday that he can boost his goal return considerably – by focusing on operating solely in the final third.
“Yesterday I said to him that for me you can score 40 goals,” said Sarri of Hazard.
“But you have to spend less energy far from goal and you have to play in the last 25 metres of the field.
“I think that he can spend less energy than he does now at 50 to 60 metres from the opposite goal.
“In these actions I think he spends a lot of energy, and he can have more energy in the last 25 metres.”
Hazard’s top return for Chelsea to date is the 18 goals scored in the 2016/17 campaign, with 16 of those coming in the Premier League.
But Sarri believes the 27-year-old has the chance to boost his goal return out of sight – and become the best player in Europe at the same time.
“When I arrived I thought that Hazard was one of the best players in Europe,” said Sarri.
“Now I have changed my mind: maybe he is the best. But I also think he can still improve more.”
Cardiff shocked Chelsea by sneaking an early lead courtesy of Sol Bamba’s smart flicked finish from a set-piece ruse.
Olivier Giroud laid on two goals in seven minutes for Hazard, though, who conjured a devastatingly clinical performance.
Hazard then converted a penalty with 10 minutes to play, before Willian blasted a fine fourth for the Blues.
Chelsea’s win moved them top of the table ahead of Liverpool on goal difference, with Jurgen Klopp’s men also winning their opening five matches.
Despite Chelsea quickly finding their feet under Sarri, the former Napoli boss continues to maintain that Liverpool and Manchester City are the title favourites.
Asked if he would revise that view after Chelsea’s latest win, Sarri replied: “No. I cannot change my mind from one match.
“I think that in this moment Liverpool and Manchester City are in another step. But I think that we can improve.
“My target is to be the best team in England, but not in one month of course.
“Maybe one season, maybe a little more. But our target is this.
“But at the moment, I repeat, for me, in my opinion, Liverpool and Manchester City are better than us.”
Cardiff boss Neil Warnock heralded the “unplayable” Hazard but insisted his side ought to have cut out at least two of Chelsea’s goals.
“I thought we were in the game for 80 minutes, but again I’m really disappointed with the goals we conceded.
“It’s not Chelsea’s ability. Joe (Bennett) should have won that tackle, and Bobby Reid, it’s never a free-kick.
“And the penalty, I knew it was going to be a penalty 15 yards before the tackle.
“I thought Willian’s too quick and Sol (Bamba) would go and tackle, not hold, especially at that stage when he was tired.
“It was his only mistake though. I thought he had a good game otherwise.”
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