Eden Hazard has apologised to Real Madrid supporters after he was seen laughing with Chelsea players following his side's Champions League semi-final exit on Wednesday.

The Belgium international, who spent seven seasons at Stamford Bridge before joining Madrid in 2019, was heavily criticised for sharing a joke with some of his former colleagues.

It came after another ineffective performance from Hazard, who has struggled for injuries in his two seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu and has been linked with a move away.

He played 89 minutes of the 2-0 loss in west London as goals from Timo Werner and Mason Mount send perennial European champions Madrid crashing out 3-1 on aggregate.

A number of former Madrid players have taken aim at Hazard for his actions at full-time, with Fernando Morientes calling for the 30-year-old to say sorry to the club's fanbase.

And Hazard took to social media on Thursday to do exactly that in a short statement that read: "I am sorry. I have read lots of opinions about me today and it was not my intention to offend the Real Madrid fans.

"It has always been my dream to play for Real Madrid and I came here to win. The season is not over and together we must not battle for La Liga! Hala Madrid!"

Hazard won two Premier League titles, two Europa Leagues, the EFL Cup and the FA Cup during his time with Chelsea.

The forward has featured only 40 times for the Spanish giants in all competitions since arriving in a big-money deal, including 18 appearances in the 2020-21 campaign.

He may get an opportunity to redeem himself when title-chasing Madrid host Sevilla in LaLiga on their return to action on Sunday.

A gripping LaLiga title race should be all Real Madrid need to pick themselves up from their Champions League semi-final loss to Chelsea, according to Zinedine Zidane.

Madrid head coach Zidane conceded his team were beaten by the better side after goals from Timo Werner and Mason Mount gave Chelsea a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge, sending them through 3-1 on aggregate to an all-English final against Manchester City at the end of this month.

Los Blancos looked a shadow of the side that won three consecutive European crowns under Zidane between 2016-2018, but the France great insisted he was proud of his players' endeavours on Wednesday.

Now they face up to a LaLiga battle, where they are level on points with Barcelona and two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid with four games remaining. Barca and Atleti face one another this weekend.

"We have spoken on this many times this season. It has been a year with many injuries, ups and downs, and that’s what we have dealt this year," Zidane told a post-match news conference midweek.

"Despite it all, we have done good things in this Champions League in order to reach this stage.

"I think we deserved it and we were only one step from the final, but we have to congratulate this team [Chelsea], who has been better tonight.

"It doesn't change anything. I am very pleased and very proud and now it is the time to rest and be focused on the last four games in LaLiga."

Captain Sergio Ramos and Ferland Mendy were passed fit to start for Madrid and struggled to find top gear, although Zidane insisted he had no regrets over the selections.

"If my players have played it's because they were ready for the 90 minutes," he said.

"Ramos and Mendy were ready to play, that's why I put them on. It was a semi-final and they were ready."

Another man recently back to fitness, Eden Hazard, lasted 89 minutes but had minimal impact against his former club.

After the match, images of Hazard congratulating his old Chelsea team-mates played very badly in Madrid, but Zidane urged patience with the €100million forward.

"Eden needs to play regularly and get his confidence back," he added. "And you get that slowly and playing games.

"So, we need to get back Eden and it will be possible playing games."

Eden Hazard and Sergio Ramos were named in the Real Madrid starting line-up to face Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final second leg.

Belgium star Hazard was only involved as a second-half substitute during the 1-1 draw with his former club in the first leg in Spain.

The 30-year-old has only started nine games in all competitions in a season impacted by a succession of injuries and a positive test for coronavirus.

Madrid captain Ramos, who has not played since sustaining a calf injury during the March international break, was chosen to partner Eder Militao at the heart of defence as the injured Raphael Varane missed out. Ferland Mendy returned at left-back, with Nacho Fernandez on the right of the defence.

Hazard was joined in attack by Karim Benzema, who scored Madrid's equaliser in the first leg, and Vinicius Junior in front of the traditional midfield trio of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro.

Chelsea chose Timo Werner and Kai Havertz in attack, supported by Mason Mount, as head coach Thomas Tuchel selected an apparent 3-4-3 system.

Christian Pulisic had to be content with a place on the bench despite opening the scoring in the tie.

Madrid have not beaten Chelsea in four previous European matches.

Zinedine Zidane has been left in awe of his Real Madrid team for their persistence this season despite an often-lengthy injury list, though he insists it is no "miracle" to be in the Champions League semi-finals.

Madrid face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday having drawn 1-1 at home to the Blues last week, meaning Thomas Tuchel's men have a slender advantage secured by their away goal.

The omens are not great for Madrid, as they have never beaten Chelsea in four previous meetings and not won on any of their past four trips to England.

On top of that, Tuchel has only suffered four home defeats out of a possible 18 in the Champions League and seen his teams average 2.7 goals per game in those matches.

But Madrid showed character to salvage a draw in the first leg with Karim Benzema levelling Christian Pulisic's opener, and Zidane believes the fact they have got this far despite operating with a depleted squad for much of 2021 is testament to the team's excellent mentality.

"You have to take your hat off to this team," he told reporters on Tuesday. "Every time there are difficulties, they respond. They are the best. We are where we want to be and it is deserved.

"The team has character, first of all, and when things get complicated, they are there."

However, when it was put to Zidane that Madrid's progress this far into the competition was akin to a "miracle", the Frenchman did not want to get carried away.

"It's not a miracle to be here, not at all, on the contrary," he said. "We are here for our work and because we believe in what we do.

"We're here because of our work, nothing else. In football, there are no miracles."

Madrid have recovered several key players for the trip to London, with Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Federico Valverde and Ferland Mendy all able to travel.

While the loss of Raphael Varane to an abductor injury was a blow, the return of captain Ramos – out since March – will add leadership and experience to the side.

"I'm not going to risk anything," Zidane said of Ramos' inclusion. "If he's with us, he's ready to play.

"He's with us, that means it's okay. It's the most important thing, to have our leader."

Eden Hazard appeared against his former club off the bench last week and Zidane is backing the Belgian to have an impact at Stamford Bridge.

"It's a very good moment for him and I think he comes prepared," Zidane added. "We are going to need him and he'll help, for sure."

Eden Hazard is happy to keep progressing "step by step" after playing 24 minutes for Real Madrid against his Chelsea "friends" in the Champions League.

Hazard started from the bench for Madrid in Tuesday's home first leg of their semi-final tie, which ended 1-1.

The winger had only returned from more than a month out against Real Betis at the weekend, finally putting his latest injury setback behind him.

A series of issues have meant the meeting with former club Chelsea saw Hazard make just his 38th Madrid appearance since signing in 2019.

Like much of his career in Spain, it was a largely forgettable cameo, having only 12 touches and failing to attempt or create a shot.

But Hazard was simply happy to be back involved, explaining: "I just want to go step by step.

"Of course I want to play, I want to be on the pitch, but the last game I played 15 minutes, today I played a bit more.

"We have a couple of big games to play until the end of the season, so I just want to be ready for them.

"Now I feel better, the condition's better and the body's better, so I'm just happy that I can play again."

Hazard has so far been involved in only nine Madrid goals, yet he scored 110 times and provided 81 assists in seven years with Chelsea to earn his move.

"It's always good to play against friends," he added. "I have a couple of friends over there.

"But now I'm a Real Madrid player, so I just want to win. It doesn't matter if it's Chelsea against us or another team, I just want to win.

"But it's always good to see some good faces."

Hazard will hope to be able to use his experience of Stamford Bridge to Madrid's advantage in next week's return leg.

Madrid have not beaten Chelsea in four meetings but may now require a victory to advance after conceding an away goal to Christian Pulisic.

Karim Benzema replied for Los Blancos long before Hazard's introduction with his team's sole shot on target.

Christian Pulisic says Chelsea are "moving on" without former talisman Eden Hazard and insists he is "not trying to be like" the Real Madrid winger ahead of their Champions League semi-final clash.

Hazard left Stamford Bridge at the end of the 2018-19 season as Pulisic arrived, having agreed a move from Borussia Dortmund in January 2019.

Madrid paid a club-record €100million fee to sign Hazard, who won six major honours in seven years with Chelsea, including the Premier League twice and the Europa League twice.

The Belgium international scored 110 goals and provided 81 assists in all competitions for the Premier League side but has struggled to make the same impact in Spain, dogged by injury woes.

Hazard has just four goals and five assists in 37 games in Madrid colours, although he has been involved in a goal every 165 minutes this season, a vast improvement on one every 309 minutes in 2019-20.

Chelsea have not been serious title contenders in either season since Hazard's departure but will now hope to dump their fit-again former superstar out of the Champions League.

Pulisic, wearing Hazard's number 10 shirt and playing a similar role, has predictably been measured against the 30-year-old.

A strong end to 2019-20 saw Pulisic finish with nine Premier League goals, scoring 0.47 times per 90 minutes, comparable to Hazard's rate of 0.49 when he netted 16 times in his final campaign in England.

Pulisic has found life a little more difficult this season, providing four goals (0.26 per 90), but he is determined to forge his own legacy.

"[Hazard] was an incredible player at this football club, of course," Pulisic told reporters. "It's someone that I've definitely looked up to.

"I'm not comparing myself to him in any way or trying to be like him, I'm my own player and I'm doing my best for this club.

"Obviously I can say he was a massive player for this club so it's an honour to hear comparisons like that, but I still have a ways to go.

"He was an incredible player - he did a lot for this football club - and obviously we're moving on without him.

"I never played with him, so I only know how it is without him, but I think we're in a good place now, in the semi-final of the Champions League with a lot left to play for this season.

"I think this team definitely has a good situation at the moment. It's looking positive."

Like Hazard, Pulisic has had fitness issues, limiting his involvement.

"I feel very confident in my body and my fitness level at the moment," he said. "I've played a string of games. I've never thought of myself as a player who's injury-prone or anything.

"Obviously I've had a tough time the past year and a bit, but really it's about taking care of my body and putting myself in the best position to be available for every single game. I feel good about that."

One such problem - a hamstring blow in last season's FA Cup final - kept Pulisic out of the second leg of a 7-1 aggregate Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.

Chelsea are hoping this year's campaign ends in more satisfactory fashion.

"I think the guys definitely gained from that, taking that experience from last season, being able to play in the Champions League - a lot of the guys for the first time," Pulisic said.

"The next season you feel more prepared, a bit more confident, and ready to go for this year's competition.

"I think that experience does help and I'm hoping we can take it into the game tomorrow."

Zinedine Zidane portrayed a relaxed figure despite Real Madrid suffering something of a setback in their title challenge as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Real Betis.

Madrid were looking to go top of the table – at least until Sunday – with a victory at Valdebebas, but in the end they were arguably fortunate to leave with a point.

Betis had the best chances of the match, with Guido Rodriguez and Borja Iglesias spurning glorious opportunities in the second half.

While Madrid managed five shots on target, their cumulative expected goals value of 1.02 was only marginally more than Betis' 0.92.

It was an underwhelming showing ahead of their Champions League semi-final first leg against Chelsea on Tuesday, while they will finish the weekend five points off the top of LaLiga if Atletico beat Athletic Bilbao.

But Zidane stressed there was no need to panic, even if he was irritated by Madrid's issues in attack during Saturday's stalemate.

"We lose two points and we don't like it but there is still a lot of LaLiga to go, it doesn't end today," he said.

"The rest of the teams have to play and we'll see what happens. We now focus on Tuesday's game.

"Defensively we were very good, but offensively we lacked many things. We lacked something, we were not fine at the top end of the pitch.

"We are prepared for the next game, which is going to be the most difficult of the whole season."

One positive for Madrid was the return of Eden Hazard, who made only his second LaLiga appearance since the end of January.

The Belgium winger had been blighted by calf and thigh issues but looked lively in his cameo, suggesting he could play a role against his former club over the next couple of weeks.

"I was very happy to see Eden Hazard because it was important to have him with us again," Zidane said.

"We know the quality he has and I hope to be able to count on him until the end of the season."

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane deflected questions about the proposed breakaway European Super League, insisting it was a matter for president Florentino Perez.

Madrid were among 12 clubs to announce their involvement in the controversial new competition on Sunday.

Los Blancos have been European champions a record 13 times, but this tournament would rival the Champions League.

The anti-competitive nature of the format, which would mean the 12 'founding clubs' could not be demoted, has been widely criticised, yet Zidane would not give his opinion.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday's game against Cadiz, the coach said: "That's a matter of one person, of the president.

"I'm here to talk about the game, not to talk about other things. The rest is not my job."

UEFA could yet attempt to expel Madrid, along with fellow semi-finalists Chelsea and Manchester City, from this season's Champions League.

The idea of banning Super League players from international football has also been mooted.

But Zidane, who refused to give an opinion again when asked if he had spoken to Perez, insists his squad are not distracted by the matter.

"We don't talk about it in the locker room," he said. "We have a game to get right."

While there is uncertainty around how the remainder of this season might play out, as well as Madrid's involvement in competitions going forward, Zidane is determined his players will keep pushing to win LaLiga.

A goalless draw against Getafe at the weekend saw the champions lose ground in the title race, slipping three points behind leaders Atletico Madrid.

Having held Liverpool in Europe in their previous match, Los Blancos could have three consecutive 0-0 draws for the first time since March 2006.

And Cadiz beat Madrid 1-0 in the reverse fixture earlier this season. They are the only LaLiga opponents Zidane has never defeated and could become the first promoted side to achieve a league double against Madrid since Real Burgos in 1990-91.

But Zidane is not ready to concede the title, adding: "We've been here eight months and [people say] it's all over. I was on the street, the players were worthless...

"And that's never the case. The important thing is that there is life. We're competing, which is what we like, and we're going to compete until the last day.

"Whatever happens, we're going to compete until the last day. I don't know if we're going to win, but we're going to put all the strength in it."

Zidane confirmed Madrid would again be without record signing Eden Hazard, who has not featured since March 13 due to a calf injury.

The €100million winger has played just 646 minutes across 14 games in all competitions this season, scoring with three of his 14 shots and creating six chances and a single assist.

Eden Hazard will not be risked by Real Madrid in their Champions League quarter-final second leg against Liverpool.

Hazard has been restricted to only 14 appearances in a frustrating injury-hit campaign for the LaLiga champions.

The Belgium international recovered from a hip injury to make a substitute appearance in a 2-1 win over Elche last month but sustained another setback.

Hazard is back in training but was not included in Los Blancos' 21-man squad for the clash at Anfield on Wednesday, which Zinedine Zidane's side will start with a 3-1 lead.

Lucas Vazquez will also be absent after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 2-1 Clasico victory over Barcelona on Saturday.

There were concerns over Toni Kroos' fitness for the trip to Merseyside after the Germany midfielder came off in the win over Barca, but he was named in the squad, along with Federico Valverde, who was also a doubt.

In-form Madrid will also be without injured defenders Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane once again.

Eden Hazard has not been included in Real Madrid's 21-man squad for Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Liverpool.

The Belgium international has been plagued by injuries during his first two seasons in Madrid, restricting him to just 36 appearances and 29 starts across all competitions.

Hazard missed Los Blancos' last-16 second leg against Atalanta with a damaged hip flexor and played no part for Belgium in their three World Cup qualifiers at the end of March.

Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane had increased hope of a midweek return following Saturday's win over Eibar but said on Monday he would not select the winger unless he could prove he was 100 per cent fit.

And Madrid subsequently confirmed Hazard will play no part against the Premier League champions, having been omitted from the squad for the game at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Captain Sergio Ramos' absence had already been all but confirmed after he sustained a calf injury on international duty with Spain last week.

Madrid have lost seven of the 10 Champions League games Ramos has missed since the end of 2017-18 when they were last crowned European champions.

Fellow defender Dani Carvajal also remains out, but midfielder Federico Valverde has recovered from a muscular injury that kept him out of the Eibar game.

Tuesday's clash will be the first between Madrid and Liverpool since the 2018 final, which Los Blancos won 3-1 to seal a third successive Champions League trophy.

Eden Hazard will not be rushed back for Real Madrid's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Liverpool on Tuesday, insists Zinedine Zidane. 

Hazard has been plagued by injuries since joining Madrid from Chelsea for €100million in June 2019.

He has made just 36 appearances and 29 starts across all competitions in that time, scoring only four times. 

The 30-year-old returned from injury in March but then missed the Champions League last-16 second leg against Atalanta with a damaged hip flexor – a development Zidane described as "inexplicable". 

That injury kept him out of the Belgium squad for the recent international break and Zidane says he has no intention of playing Hazard against Premier League champions Liverpool if he is not 100 per cent fit. 

"Eden has to be calm," the Madrid boss told a media conference on Monday. "We never risk the return of a player if he is not well. 

"We will do things little by little and we will see when he will be with us. At the moment it is like that.

"I need all my players to be available and fit. I like my players to be fit and in good health. I don't like seeing players out injured. We have had a lot of players out injured this season.

"I hope to have Eden back soon. I hope to have a fully fit squad come the end of the season."

Tuesday's clash will be the first between the sides since the 2018 final, which Madrid won 3-1 to seal a third consecutive Champions League trophy.

Los Blancos have won the first leg in eight of their last nine Champions League knockout ties, while they have claimed victories in their last three matches against the Reds in the competition. 

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, however, has won each of his last five games at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League, including all four of his games at this stage while in charge of the Reds. 

Zidane is an admirer of what Klopp has achieved at Anfield, but says he is not interested in copying the German's methods. 

"Klopp is a great manager, he has been coaching for a long time," he added. "He's got a great CV and has done superbly at Liverpool. 

"I don't have to look at what he does and copy him. Everyone has their way of going about things but I look at all the managers.

"I looked and learned when I was going to be a manager and, of course, I analysed Klopp."

Liverpool will need to be particularly wary of Madrid talisman Karim Benzema, who has scored four goals in his three Champions League appearances against them.

He is level with Didier Drogba as the player to have scored the most against the Reds in the competition. 

Benzema should lead the line on Tuesday and Zidane has attributed his success to the understanding he has developed with his team-mates.

"All the players who are here know how to play and have earned the right to be in this squad, they are the best," he explained. "They all understand Karim well and Karim the others. There is a lot of chemistry between them."

Zinedine Zidane is waiting to learn if Eden Hazard will be fit to return for Real Madrid against Liverpool on Tuesday.

Madrid face a huge week in their season with the home leg of their Champions League quarter-final before a Clasico with Barcelona in LaLiga.

But head coach Zidane is hoping his side will receive a boost ahead of the first meeting with the Reds.

Hazard returned from injury shortly before the international break but then missed the European tie against Atalanta with a damaged hip flexor and was unable to go away with Belgium.

Red Devils boss Roberto Martinez could not even guarantee the €100million winger would make Euro 2020, although he was "very positive".

Hazard might be back in action as soon as Tuesday, with Madrid also looking to again bring Federico Valverde into the fold.

"Hopefully we can get Valverde and Hazard back," Zidane said on Saturday. "We will see tomorrow and the day after.

"Today it was not possible but I hope that on Tuesday they can be with us."

Hazard scored six goals against Liverpool in 16 games while with Chelsea.

But he has made just 36 appearances and 29 starts for Madrid since his signing in June 2019, scoring only four times and providing five assists from 38 chances created.

Hazard certainly was not missed as Los Blancos swept aside Eibar 2-0 at a stormy Estadio Alfredo di Stefano.

Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema scored in either half, while the Spain forward also hit the crossbar, opposing goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic made six saves and three of Madrid's four offsides saw goals disallowed.

"The first half, in general, was complete, with good feelings," Zidane said. "It's what I told the players.

"Then, with the storm, there were 20 difficult minutes to start the second.

"We have to recover well because we have a week with important games in the Champions League and the league. They will be entertaining.

"We must continue like this. There was a difficult moment in the season and now we have to take advantage of the current one, which is good."

Ahead of league leaders Atletico Madrid and fellow challengers Barca playing this weekend, Madrid moved up to second, three points off the summit.

That promising position means Zidane will prioritise neither domestic action nor their European exploits.

"We do not look at that," he said. "We are in the day-to-day. We are thinking about today's game, which we did very well.

"We are not going to think about one competition or the other; we are alive in both. Now you have to enjoy the moment. We have done nothing - we have to continue."

Thibaut Courtois, required to make four saves against Eibar but only really tested by an awkward Lucas Vazquez backpass, added: "We've fought all season to get to April, where everything is played for.

"Winning today put pressure on Atletico and Barcelona.

"In April, everything is played for and everything is decided; hopefully we will keep winning."

Zinedine Zidane insists "no one has the blame" for Sergio Ramos returning from Spain duty with a calf injury that has "hurt" Real Madrid for a key stretch of the season.

Ramos returned from a knee issue ahead of the international break and scored for Madrid as they knocked Atalanta out of the Champions League.

However, he then played just 50 minutes across two appearances for Spain in World Cup qualifying and complained of a calf problem after a short cameo at home to Kosovo.

Madrid have not confirmed the anticipated length of Ramos' lay-off, but a return in time to face Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-finals and Barcelona in LaLiga appears unlikely.

Los Blancos host Liverpool on April 6, with a second leg eight days later sandwiching a critical home Clasico.

Given Ramos has appeared just 20 times for Madrid in all competitions this season, questions might be asked of his involvement for Spain.

But Zidane told a news conference on Friday: "No one has the blame here - not Spain, not Real Madrid. This is just football.

"Unfortunately, these things happen; it's happened before, not just to us but to a lot of other teams as well.

"It's true that, this part of football, we don't like it, of course, but these things happen. We have to accept this, but no one is to blame here.

"What we want for Sergio is that he recovers as quickly as possible. We know the player and captain he is. We know that he always wants to be available and playing.

"This has hurt us a little bit and we hope he recovers quickly."

Ramos' absence for the two legs against Liverpool would appear particularly costly as Madrid have lost seven of the 10 Champions League games he has missed since the end of the 2017-18, the season in which they were last crowned European champions and talisman Cristiano Ronaldo departed.

The centre-back has made 14 European appearances in that time and contributed to 10 wins, losing only once, while Los Blancos concede only 0.9 goals per game with him in the side - down from 1.9 without him.

But Zidane was not looking as far ahead as an intriguing last-eight tie, as Madrid first face Eibar on Saturday, playing before Atletico Madrid and Barca and able to cut the gap at the top to three points.

"You talk about Liverpool and Barcelona - we have a game tomorrow to play," Zidane said.

"We want Sergio back, we want him to be with us at all times, but right now we just focus on tomorrow's game.

"This is going to mark the path for the rest of the season. We just focus on tomorrow and that's it. Tomorrow at 4.15 [CET], we have a game and we have to all be ready, all of us."

Ramos is not Madrid's only injury absentee, either, with Eden Hazard prevented from going away with Belgium and Toni Kroos returning ealry from Germany duty.

Kroos has been a key man this season, playing 35 games and providing nine assists from 83 chances created, and he is "doing better", Zidane said.

The coach added Madrid are "not going to be silly" with the midfielder but he trained on Friday.

Hazard, on the other hand, has repeatedly suffered with fitness issues, restricted to only nine starts in 2020-21 and having a meagre four goal involvements.

"Once again, we don't have a plan with Eden," Zidane said. "It's a day-to-day thing, like everything.

"We're not going to force anything because the most important thing is that he's well, that he's recovered. For us, it's bit by bit.

"I'm not going to tell you we'll re-evaluate in a week, a few days, nothing. If it's in a few days, that's good for us; 10 days, okay. We're just going to take it day by day.

"He is with the team now and that's what we want. When he plays, we'll see."

Roberto Martinez remains "very positive" Eden Hazard will be fit and firing in time for Euro 2020 despite missing out on Belgium's latest squad.

And the Red Devils coach called on club side Real Madrid to join the national team in taking "responsibility" for Hazard's recovery.

The winger returned from a six-game absence in LaLiga to appear as a second-half substitute in Madrid's win against Elche last weekend.

However, Hazard had to miss training on Monday due to a damaged hip flexor and could not face Atalanta in the Champions League the following day.

Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane fumed at the repeated "inexplicable" issues that have restricted Hazard to just 36 appearances and 29 starts since his €100million transfer in June 2019.

Hazard has scored only four times for Los Blancos, providing five assists from 38 chances created.

But he remains a key man for Belgium, with five goals, seven assists and 34 chances created in eight European Championship qualifying outings and is set to captain the side at the finals, if he can recover in time.

Martinez is staying patient, revealing the player - in "good spirits" - will not undergo surgery and explaining: "I think there is still a long, long, long, long way to go [to the Euros].

"Rather than setting a timeline, all that matters is to measure every day and to see that Eden is on the right path to get back to full fitness.

"It would be wrong and it would be gambling, by anyone, to imagine if Eden will be fully fit or not.

"I feel this situation can be solved a lot earlier than the Euros, but only when Eden goes from day to day will we see the final answer.

"Knowing Eden, what we're dealing with is a player that has never been injured in his career. This is a real shock, something new. There is a lot of uncertainty around that.

"But in terms of the injury, I feel very positive that we can get to see the best Eden Hazard well before the Euros."

While Zidane had no explanation for Hazard's woes, Martinez added: "This is a situation with Eden Hazard. We're dealing with the same problem. There's been a lot of different niggles and different problems, but everything comes from the same previous problem.

"Now is the moment to forget about any deadlines, any times, it's about Eden Hazard, giving him what he needs and getting him fully recovered and making sure he's back on the football pitch.

"We all need to take that responsibility, between the Belgian federation and the club where he's playing his football."

While Hazard will play no part in Belgium's March World Cup qualifiers against Wales, Czech Republic and Belarus, Romelu Lukaku has been included, despite a coronavirus breakout at Inter.

There are also first senior nods for midfielders Albert Sambi Lokonga and Orel Mangala.


Belgium squad in full:

Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Thomas Kaminski (Blackburn Rovers), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge); Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Dedryck Boyata (Hertha Berlin), Timothy Castagne (Leicester City), Jason Denayer (Lyon), Leander Dendoncker (Wolves), Thomas Foket (Reims), Brandon Mechele (Club Brugge), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund), Thomas Vermaelen (Vissel Kobe), Jan Vertonghen (Benfica); Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Nacer Chadli (Istanbul Basaksehir), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund), Albert Sambi Lokonga (Anderlecht), Orel Mangala (Stuttgart), Dennis Praet (Leicester City), Alexis Saelemaekers (Milan), Youri Tielemans (Leicester City), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge); Michy Batshuayi (Crystal Palace), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace), Charles De Ketelaere (Club Brugge), Jeremy Doku (Rennes), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Romelu Lukaku (Inter), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Leandro Trossard (Brighton and Hove Albion), Yari Verschaeren (Anderlecht).

Zinedine Zidane has described the latest injury to Eden Hazard as "inexplicable" as frustrations build over the Real Madrid star's fitness.

The Belgium international returned from a six-game absence in LaLiga as a second-half substitute in Madrid's 2-1 win over Elche on Saturday.

It had been hoped the 30-year-old would be ready for more game time on Tuesday, when Madrid host Atalanta in the Champions League last-16 second leg.

However, Hazard had to miss training on Monday due to a damaged hip flexor, and head coach Zidane confirmed he would not be in the squad for the visit of the Serie A side.

"He's not going to be fit. We're going to put something out shortly [on the injury]; I can't say any more," Zidane said.

"Something is going on. These are things I can't explain. I want to be positive and think it's going to be something small.

"They [the fans] have to wait. We know what sort of player he is. They want to see him, of course, just like everyone else here. But now, they can't."

Hazard has played just 14 times this season as injuries continue to blight his time in the Spanish capital.

The €100million signing from Chelsea has only started 29 matches in all competitions since joining two years ago and has not completed 90 minutes in a single game since November 2019.

"There are four questions on Hazard – I can't say any more," Zidane replied when pressed about the player's problems.

"We want to help him. I don't know if it will be with me or someone else, because he has a long contract, but I want with all my strength for him to be seen as the player he is. Sooner or later, he'll arrive."

Hazard is one of a number of fitness concerns Madrid have had this term but Zidane refused to pin any blame on the club's medical department.

"I don't think there's a problem [with the department]. We have very competent people here who are on top of the players," he said.

"We're going to find out what is happening, but at the moment, it's inexplicable. We've talked about pre-season, the accumulation of matches, also in the head.

"We're going to try to recover [the injured players]. Now, we have fewer injuries. Enough of them have returned."

Striker Karim Benzema, meanwhile, was left saddened by Hazard's latest setback, saying: "He hasn't had much luck since he came here.

"I'm sad because he's a top player. He's sad because he wants to show that he's a world star. We need him."

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