Eden Hazard is relishing the prospect of playing alongside Gonzalo Higuaín at Chelsea and believes the Argentinian can have a similar positive effect to the departed Diego Costa at Stamford Bridge.
Higuaín, who has joined from Juventus on an initial six-month loan with an option for a further 12 months for a fee of 18m Euros, was presented to the crowd prior to kick-off in the Carabao Cup semi-final win over Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday night and could make his debut in Sunday’s FA Cup fourth round tie against Sheffield Wednesday. His arrival will allow Hazard to revert to his preferred left-sided role, and should add to the armoury of a side who have scored only 13 goals in their last 12 topflight games.
“For me, as a winger, I like to play with top players,” said Hazard. “With Chelsea I had the chance to play with one of the best in Diego Costa for three years, and Higuaín is one of the best. I also like to play with Olivier (Giroud) when he is playing, with Alvaro (Morata) when he was playing. I just try to have fun with my striker, playing the give and go. If the striker just goes deep, I am going to be in trouble, but Giroud understands this, and that’s why I like to play with him. He is more like a team player than just a striker who scores goal.
“Diego was sometimes not this kind of player who you can play a 1-2 with, but in the box he was amazing. He would score a goal and you won and at the end you would have three points. That’s what we need. Higuaín is this kind of player. He can also link with the wingers and the midfield, but he can also be the proper striker. He has scored a lot of goals, when you see his career: Real Madrid, Napoli, Juventus, he has always scored goals.
“This season we have been playing well, but sometimes we miss the one guy just to score one goal. So we had a couple of games where we played well but we didn’t score. We finished with zero goals, but we created a lot of chances. But Higuaín can do that. He is a top striker who can score everywhere.”
There’s still some doubt over whether Marko Arnautovic will be involved against AFC Wimbledon tomorrow night. Manuel Pellegrini says the West Ham forward has been training well after being dropped against Bournemouth last week, but the wantaway Austrian’s return in the FA Cup isn’t guaranteed. If he’s still moping about not being allowed to move to China, he probably won’t be selected.
Crystal Palace are to re-sign the Mali international, Bakary Sako, from West Bromwich Albion with the player currently undergoing a medical at the Premier League club’s Beckenham training centre. Sako had departed Selhurst Park last summer after three injury-affected seasons in south London. Indeed, he had suffered a badly broken ankle in his final appearance for the club, at West Ham a little under a year ago.
Palace had still been keen to re-sign the free agent once his contract expired in July, but had already filled their 25-man Premier League squad by the time the summer transfer deadline passed. Sako instead returned to the Black Country, where he had previously excelled for Wolverhampton Wanderers, with West Brom in the Championship but only returned to full fitness in late October and has been restricted to two league starts, scoring a solitary goal in the FA Cup third round victory over Wigan.
Sako, who scored six goals under Roy Hodgson last season before that fracture at the London stadium, will return to provide cover both up front and wide, with Palace effectively taking on the last six months of his contract. The 30-year-old’s arrival on a short-term deal will end Palace’s interest in re-signing Yannick Bolasie from Everton.