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Premier League

Hazard eyes Europa League glory after difficult campaign

Chelsea finished third in the Premier League - a huge 26 points behind champions Manchester City - and Eden Hazard knows a successful season hinges on victory in Azerbaijan

Eden Hazard admits only winning the Europa League will make Chelsea’s season passable as he looks likely to leave this summer.

The forward has told the Blues of his decision, although has not revealed it publicly, with Real Madrid strongly linked with a move.

Hazard suggested his future will become clear after the Europa League final against Arsenal in Baku on May 29.

Chelsea finished third in the Premier League – a huge 26 points behind champions Manchester City – and the Belgium international knows a successful season hinges on victory in Azerbaijan.

When asked to give Chelsea’s season a rating out of 10, he said: “Now it’s like six-and-a-half. If we win in Baku, it is going to be maybe a seven-and-a-half.

“When you look at the season, (Manchester City and Liverpool) are far better than us. If we want to compete with them next season, we need to do it better. It’s that simple. We need to win games in football – if you don’t, you’re in trouble.

“How can we bridge the gap if the transfer ban remains in place? I think if we can keep the same philosophy as this season, keep playing football like we tried to do it this season but in a better way, that’s it.”

Maurizio Sarri’s side beat Tottenham to third by a point following their final day 0-0 draw at Leicester.

“We are the best team in London, I have no doubt about that. But the league is so competitive,” added Hazard.

“To be in the top four in the Premier League is very hard. We have achieved this, we worked all together during the season.

“We did a great job. Could it have been better? Of course, but at the end the target is to be in the top four and we are.”

Should Hazard leave, Chelsea could look to United States international Christian Pulisic to replace him.

Pulisic agreed a £57.7million move to Stamford Bridge from Borussia Dortmund in January but remained on loan with the Bundesliga club.

The 20-year-old will link up with the Blues in pre-season and told the club’s website: “I’m super excited to get started.

“I can’t wait, it’s going to be an amazing experience. A little change for me but to be in England and be able to speak English…I’m thrilled.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this. It has been one of my biggest dreams to be here and play in the Premier League. To be a Chelsea player is a huge honour and I’m obviously really excited.”

Leicester came ninth but defender Jonny Evans admitted it had been a tough campaign following the death of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in October and the sacking of Claude Puel in February.

“It has been a difficult season,” he said.

“The first half of the season was very difficult for the club and the supporters, and everyone who has been involved.

“We showed great character at certain times throughout the season. There were so many games this season we went behind early doors and managed to get something out of games.

“There has been a character and a spirit. Even the manager has been impressed with that since he has come in.”

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