Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink believes Eden Hazard is returning to his best form with Euro 2016 fast approaching after the attacker scored a stunning goal against Liverpool on Wednesday.
Hazard inspired Chelsea to the Premier League title last season, but like many of his team-mates has struggled to recreate those displays for much of 2015-16.
The Belgium international has shown glimpses of his old self in recent weeks, however, with the superb solo goal in the 1-1 draw at Anfield his fourth in as many league matches.
"He's had a difficult year. Last year he was one of the best, this year falling into injury, coming back near, then falling back into injury, it made him vulnerable physically and you get frustrated," Hiddink said.
"But the last few weeks he's worked on a programme to get him fully fit. Steady by steady he got his shape, you can see what he is able to do to.
"He is gifted, smart, plays one-on-one, and is very important. He's playing with courage, conceding a lot of physical contacts, but nevertheless he goes on. He is both fit and fresh and it's a pleasure to see those players.
"I cannot make judgements from August to December, but from December on I have experienced he was falling into injury, which made him unhappy, of course everyone wants to play, now he is fresh.
"I don't know [if Hazard was hurt by criticism], I'll have to ask him. Probably. Listen, everyone in this job has criticism, it's how you deal with that, they're all human.
"It's possible he can be affected a bit, but it's always good to see a reaction and show he is capable to play how he did."
There was a first-team debut for attacker Tammy Abraham, who came on for 15 minutes at Anfield, and Hiddink was full of praise for the composure shown by the 18-year-old.
"I like the game very much, with his attitude and he's training every now and then with us," Hiddink said.
"He's played a lot of games with the Under-18s and 19s, which obstructed him from spending time with us. Now he's with us for a few weeks, you see his potential.
"He must grow but it's normal in an 18-year-old boy. He plays already physically like a man, it's nice to see those players coming through."
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