​Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has lauded Eden Hazard ahead of the heavyweight Champions League clash with Real Madrid later this month, suggesting the Belgian is a cut above the rest.

Hazard finally joined Real from ​Chelsea in the summer for €100m following seven trophy-laden years at Stamford Bridge.

During his time in west London, the 28-year-old was often a thorn in the side of City manager Guardiola. Hazard scored three times in two games against the Manchester club during Guardiola's first season in English football, as well as registering both assists in a 2-0 home win over the Citizens last season.

Josep Guardiola,Eden Hazard

However, the Belgium captain has struggled with a fractured foot since making his protracted switch to the Bernabéu, making just 13 appearances. When he has played, ​Hazard has flattered to deceive, scoring just once and providing four assists so far and self-admittedly reporting for pre-season training having put on a bit of timber.

City boss Guardiola was quick to defend Hazard though, saying he must play and that it's natural that the attacker needs a period to adapt.

Running through a host of topics with YouTuber DjMaRiio, as quoted by ​AS, Guardiola said of Hazard: "If he's not playing well, something's going on at Madrid because he is really good. 

Pep Guardiola

"Not a top player, another level above. What we saw in England... he is world class. The whole world knows that you need a period of adaptation."

The first leg of the mammoth ​Champions League last 16 tie takes place on 26 February at the Bernabéu, before City play hosts to the 13-time European champions on 17 March.

Hazard is nearing a return from injury and should be fit for both legs, barring any other fitness issues. The winger could even play some part as ​Los Blancos host Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey on Thursday evening.


Speaking about the Champions League, Guardiola added: "City was a club that for a decade wanted to just stay in the Premier League but then suddenly, they were bought by people from Abu Dhabi and they took a leap forward and won four leagues in a decade. 

"The only thing they don't have is a Champions League and it's normal that people ask for it. It's good that they ask for it. I will try, and if not this year then next year... the world won't end if you don't win it."