Chelsea are hopeful Belgium winger Eden Hazard can shrug off a calf problem in time for Wednesday’s crucial Premier League showdown with Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge.
The quicksilver Hazard was forced to miss Sunday’s 1-0 victory at champions Manchester United after sustaining the injury in the Europa League semi-final win over Swiss club Basel on Thursday.
“He has a problem with his calf,” interim manager Rafael Benitez told the club’s website (www.chelseafc.co.uk).
“We thought he was fine but we didn’t want to take a risk with him (against United). He could be available for Wednesday, the physios are working with him and he could be fit.”
Chelsea climbed into the third and final automatic Champions League qualifying spot after the win at United and they go into Wednesday’s game knowing a victory against Spurs will virtually kill off the top-three chances of their London rivals.
The fourth-placed team enters the Champions League at the play-off round and must win a two-legged knockout tie to advance to the group stage.
Benitez’s squad have 68 points with three games to go, one ahead of Arsenal (two games remaining) and three in front of fifth-placed Spurs, who also have an inferior goal difference of +18 compared to Chelsea’s +34.
“If we can win we will be there but Tottenham are a good team,” the Spaniard added. “Winning is crucial for us and it’s even more important for them so there will be a great atmosphere at Stamford Bridge.
“We will try to win because we know it will guarantee a top-four finish. I don’t see more or less pressure for either team, I know we just need to win.”
Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas, sacked by Chelsea 14 months ago, said he felt no special attachment to his former club.
“I’m not sure if I spent enough time there for me to feel anything,” the Portuguese said of his eight-month reign at Stamford Bridge.
“I was another manager that just passed by. I wasn’t given enough time so it means absolutely nothing.
“For me it would be excellent but only if we get the three points. Chelsea is just like any other team, it’s about the result and hopefully by the end there can be a little more satisfaction.”
Spurs have not won at Stamford Bridge since 1990 but Villas-Boas will have a trump card up his sleeve on Wednesday in the form of Premier League Player of the Year Gareth Bale.
The Wales forward became the first player from his club to score 20 league goals in a season since German Juergen Klinsmann in 1994-95 when he struck the late winner in Saturday’s 1-0 triumph over Southampton.
“Bale is in a moment of outstanding form, scoring goals out of nothing with great ability,” Villas-Boas said.