Jose Mourinho has claimed his decision to replace Eden Hazard in the 69th minute of the 4-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv was because Pedro had the fresher legs needed to make an impact in the final part of the game. The Portuguese boss's decision seemed to pay off, as just minutes later Willian scored the match's second game, before goals from Oscar and Kurt Zouma completed the rout.
The Belgian star has recently played down rumours of a falling out with the manager. But his premature substitute reopened the doubts that surfaced after he was benched for the Premier League match with Aston Villa. He has also failed to score a single goal this season.
Hazard had a stunning season as Chelsea walked to the title last year, with the 24-year-old starting all 38 league matches, scoring 14 goals and providing 10 assists on his way to being name Premier League player of the year.
"If I did not have Pedro on the bench then I don't think I could have improved on Hazard's performance for the last 20 minutes of the match. But when I have Hazard with 90 minutes against Norwich on Saturday and 70 minutes against Maccabi on a pitch that doesn't help, and I have Pedro fresh and I see the Maccabi right-back in trouble, tired and with cramps, I decided to give a hard time to him and bring Pedro on. I made the change because I had Pedro."
Mourinho also believes his side are starting to show development, securing two consecutive clean-sheet victories since the international break. He is aware that there is still much to improve, but claims his side are finally on the right path to rescue their season.
"We started the season as a team that concedes goals," said Mourinho, "and now we lost in Stoke 1-0, we drew at Stoke in the Capital One Cup 1-1, we beat Norwich 1-0, Dynamo Kiev 2-1, so defensively as a team we have had a significant improvement. Individually the defensive players have improved. The quality of our game has improved a lot. When you have top players, you always want more, you are never satisfied.
"We are never happy with the way we play. Even when we are playing well there is always things to improve. We put ourselves in the position where the result became more important than anything else. In the Premier League the most important thing was to get better results. In the Champions League we have been always balanced, never an amazing position but never in a position to scare us. Now the most important thing is to get results and with results the confidence is now coming. If you can develop better results, at the same time better performances will come."