Mourinho backs Hazard and reacts to criticism of Ivanovic

Branislav Ivanovic and Eden Hazard of Chelsea
Jose Mourinho has backed Eden Hazard and dismissed speculation over Branislav Ivanovic’s Chelsea future.

Ivanovic, 31, has performed poorly this season, with many fans calling for him to be replaced.

And with the Serbian defender’s contract due to expire next summer, there appears to be a question mark over whether he will still be at Stamford Bridge beyond the end of the season.

However, speaking ahead of his team’s derby against Arsenal, manager Mourinho mocked recent reports that Chelsea’s scouts had been instructed to find the club a new right-back.

He added: “That is something you read because somebody wrote it. It’s not [from] me or the club.”

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
Mourinho’s players have been criticised after a poor start to the season

Mourinho has extra defensive options following the recent signing of Baba Rahman.

The Ghana left-back’s arrival means Cesar Azpilcueta can be moved across to right-back, which is the Spaniard’s natural position.

Asked about Ivanovic’s form this season, the Blues boss said: “You don’t see me being critical with him, so I don’t think the question is for me.

“I am not making individual analysis of players or isolating players from the context. I try not to do that.”

Hazard, meanwhile, has had an indifferent start to the season and missed a penalty in the midweek Champions League win over Maccabi Tel Aviv.

“Eden is the best player in England,” said Mourinho, who added that Hazard will continue taking penalties for Chelsea.

“He is the best and he will be the best again. I don’t know if it will be tomorrow or next week, but he will be man of the match.”