Hakim Ziyech ready to play key Chelsea role after injury as Thomas Tuchel demands more from match-winner

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·3-min read
Hakim Ziyech ready to play key Chelsea role after injury as Thomas Tuchel demands more from match-winner
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Hakim Ziyech is ready to reboot his Chelsea career after firing them to the brink of the Champions League knockout stages.

The Morocco winger insists the European champions are still to see the best of him - but believes he can now be a pivotal figure for Thomas Tuchel after an injury-hit 15 months.

Ziyech’s second-half strike in Malmo on Tuesday night secured a 1-0 win which means Chelsea just need a point from their last two games to qualify from Group H.

The 28-year-old has struggled with a series of injuries since his £33.3million move from Ajax last year.

His latest setback was shoulder damage suffered at the start of the season, which has left him feeling pain throughout the campaign.

But he said: “I am trying to be important for the team with goals and assists. I have had some hard times behind me, the injuries and I haven’t really recovered fully.

“I work every day on it, even when it is not going as it is supposed to, but I have always believed in myself, what I can do on the pitch, I am still believing.

“I know what I can do, where my highest level is. I have had hard times with injuries and finding my rhythm again.

“I have struggled to find that again, but it is something you have to work hard for. That is what I am doing every day.”

Tuchel believed an impressive pre-season could be a turning point for Ziyech, including a goal in the Super Cup win over Villarreal in Belfast.

But the shoulder injury suffered in that match has seen him reduced to limited action - and Chelsea’s manager insisted he wants more, even after Tuesday night’s winner.

“Still I think there is space to improve in his decision-making, connections on the pitch, where to be more consistent,” Tuchel said.

“We always rely on his work rate, counter-pressing, awareness. It is a huge part of his performances.

“He can still be more clinical and maybe grow more into the rhythm, but I think his shoulder injury hurt him a lot.

 (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
(Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

“Even if he pushed hard to come back early, he is not still 100 per cent free as he should be. Especially the offensive players love their freedom of turning, but I am happy that if things get stuck, a goal like this will help the most. I am happy for him.”

Tuchel also offered his backing to Kai Havertz, who missed two chances to score against Malmo with just the goalkeeper to beat.

He added: “He has had some good matches with the ball and off it as well, bringing huge effort when we have the ball.

“I like what he is playing at the moment, I can see and feel how hard he fights for the team and what effort he puts in.

“He is a bit unlucky at the moment. He won a penalty at Newcastle, today had two chances to score. But the last games I am very happy with his performances and the effort.”

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