December 4, 2017 / 10:44 AM / a year ago

Conte backs Hazard to reach new heights at Chelsea

(Reuters) - Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has warned that playmaker Eden Hazard is yet to hit his peak at the Premier League club and backed the Belgian to become one of the best players in the world.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool vs Chelsea - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - November 25, 2017 Chelsea manager Antonio Conte speaks with Eden Hazard REUTERS/Phil Noble

Hazard has been instrumental in Chelsea’s success since joining the club in 2012, scoring twice in Chelsea’s 3-1 league win over Newcastle United on Saturday to take his tally to eight goals and six assists in 18 matches across all competitions this season.

“I don’t think that Eden is at the peak of his career yet. I think he has a lot of improvement (to make),” Conte told British media.

“It’s important for him to work, work, work in every training session to improve himself and then to have this kind of performance.

“You are only at the top when you win the Ballon d’Or the first time, when you win the Champions League or when you win the World Cup. At that moment, you are a great player.”

The Italian is keen for the 26-year-old Hazard and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to sign new contracts at Chelsea.

“I will be very happy when they sign their deals. They are great players who have a lot of space for improvement and it will be great to keep them,” Conte added.

Champions Chelsea have won six of their last seven league games, the exception being a 1-1 draw at Liverpool, and sit 11 points behind leaders Manchester City in third position.

Midfielder Cesc Fabregas has urged Chelsea to continue their impressive run and put pressure on City.

“It is important to get the win,” Fabregas told Chelsea TV.

“It is still a long way to go and that is why we have to hope Manchester City will slip up and we will manage to put some pressure on them. They are there because they deserve it.”

Chelsea host Atletico Madrid in their last Champions League group game on Tuesday before travelling to relegation-threatened West Ham United in the league on Saturday.

Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond

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