Hazard to make long-awaited return for Madrid against Celta

File photo of Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard during the La Liga match with Real Betis at Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid November 2, 2019. — AFP pic
File photo of Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard during the La Liga match with Real Betis at Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid November 2, 2019. — AFP pic

MADRID, Feb 15 — Real Madrid forward Eden Hazard is set to return from a serious ankle injury in Sunday’s La Liga match at home to Celta Vigo, coach Zinedine Zidane has said.

Hazard, who Real signed from Chelsea last summer for a joint club record fee of 100 million euros, has only made seven league starts for the Spanish side and has been absent since hurting his ankle in a 2-2 draw with Paris St Germain on Nov. 26.

The Belgium international returned to training two weeks ago but was not deemed match fit for the derby against Atletico Madrid or last Sunday’s game at Osasuna.

“We know what he brings to the team, that’s why we signed him, and now is the right time for him to return,” Zidane told a news conference on Saturday ahead of the match with Celta.

“I’m very happy that he has returned. After three months out it’s like we have signed a new player. We had to be careful with him, give him a little more time and not hurry him back, but he’ll be with us tomorrow. He’s ready to play.”

Real are top of La Liga and lead nearest challengers Barcelona by three points after a run of five league wins in a row.

They face Manchester City in a Champions League last-16 first leg at the end of the month, although Zidane was unsure whether Hazard would be able to start against the Premier League champions.

“We have to make sure he is in good shape. He hasn’t played for three months so it’s a question of whether he is up to speed. But at the moment he is fit enough to be in the squad,” added Zidane.

City have been hit with a two-year ban from European competition as of next season by UEFA, but Zidane said he did not think the sanction would affect Real’s match with them.

“They are a very competitive team who are very strong, and that’s not going to change. It’s going to be a very difficult tie,” he said. — Reuters

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