Hazard: Defenders keep kicking me but I’ll keep smiling

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The Chelsea forward is often targeted by opponents for particularly rough treatment but he is happy to put in the work in training to be able to shrug them off

Chelsea forward Eden Hazard says that he is still happy to endure the kicks of Premier League opponents as he eyes a second consecutive league title.

The Belgian, named the PFA Player of the Year last season, has been working to bulk up in order to deal with the aggressive approach often used to try to nullify him, but would welcome extra protection from referees.

“Sometimes I am in pain after games,” he told The Observer. “I have to take some anti-inflammatories or something like that.

“I like to have the ball at my feet and, when I have the ball at my feet, I get a lot of kicks… but this is football.

“If I don’t work and do the training, the defenders will kill me. It’s my job.

“If the referees can protect me, it would be good for me because they know now that I get a lot of kicks and I want to be protected by the referee. Whenever I feel pain, I try to keep a smile on my face. Always happy.

“Sometimes I get kicked, sometimes not. We have a lot of physios and they work very well because we play every three or four days. It’s important. I am able to stay calm, though. That’s just the way I am. I don’t speak a lot to the players or the defenders. I just want to play, to dribble, to do some skills.

“I never reacted to tackles, even when I was younger. Maybe growing up playing with my brothers helped me. When I was younger, I kept the ball at my feet and my brother tried to catch the ball and, of course, I got a lot of kicks but it became a habit.

“The worst one last season was against Stoke, with Phil Bardsley. When I see the video… it’s crazy. I just play. I always say after the game that, if I’ve had a lot of kicks, the game was good. I don’t care about kicks – I just want to score.”

Hazard’s style of play is often compared to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and the Blues star is excited about pushing himself towards their level.

“If I want to reach this level, I have to score 40, 50 goals just for one season,” he remarked. “I think last season I scored 19. Maybe it’s good but maybe it’s not enough.”

Hazard continued on Chelsea’s prospects this year: “Everything is possible. If we train hard, if we play like we did last season, we can be better. Of course, in the Champions League we have to do better to reach the final or the semi-final. It will be a good season.”

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