West Ham gained a potentially vital point as they held Chelsea to a 0-0 stalemate on Sunday, and manager Manuel Pellegrini has pinpointed their successful performance on one feat in particular; stopping Eden Hazard. After yet another link away from London earlier this year, the Belgian has once again proven just how central he is to everything surrounding Chelsea’s style of play, which features largely on getting the 27-year-old on the ball.
Hazard has upped the ante already this campaign, dodging tackles, setting up his teammates, linking up with Olivier Giroud and finding the back of the net in stunning fashion, and looks set to have another fantastic season in English football.
Chelsea travel to Anfield tomorrow night in the Third Round of the Carabao Cup, where both sides will be setting out to win the game, yet the second leg of the doubleheader on Saturday evening is the one that truly matters. A cup run will be of huge importance to both Jurgen Klopp and Maurizio Sarri, but neither will want to lose out in the grudge Premier League encounter at Stamford Bridge this weekend.
Victory for the Reds would further cement their league dominance and provide them with a huge confidence boost at this early stage of the season, a boost that they will most certainly need with their trip to Napoli the following Wednesday, and a meeting with the might of Manchester City the following weekend thrown in for good measure.
Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne has been on hot form already in Serie A with four goals – one more than Cristiano Ronaldo – to send his side second of the table, while the incredible talents of Man City’s front line need no introduction, with Sergio Aguero leading the charge for Pep Guardiola’s side. It is, however, Eden Hazard that has been setting the Premier League alight lately, with the Belgian currently heading the Premier League top scorer list with five.
His frightening talents have been all too familiar in recent encounters with the Reds, yet it shouldn’t be forgotten that Liverpool are an entirely different force this season, primarily down to new recruit Allison Becker and the formidable Virgil van Dijk, with Andy Robertson, Joe Gomez, and Trent Alexander-Arnold all chipping in to form a rigid back five.
Liverpool’s back five have been highlighted here as Hazard will pick on ALL of them. The Belgian, with his near-impossible movement across the midfield and front line, will set out to terrorise Allison and his hard-working defenders come Saturday. The league encounter could be a defining one at this early stage, with Chelsea looking like serious competitors for the title under Sarri, and it will undoubtedly be Hazard who is the one capable of bringing such success to Stamford Bridge.
The Hammers coped with the tricky attacker in one specific way and one way only. By outnumbering the agile and skilful Hazard, Pellegrini’s side were able to drown out the potential damage to their defence, and so the Belgian simply couldn’t have the devastating impact on the game that we are so accustomed to.
With four clean sheets from six league games, Allison leads the way in the Premier League for goalkeepers, while in front of him Virgil van Dijk boasts 17 headed clearances, with Andy Robertson on 17 tackles. These statistics are vital for the squad as they concentrate on continuing their fine form, yet unsurprisingly these lie far from the top of the list in comparison with other clubs. Liverpool have simply had to do very little defending this season due to their offensive style of play, and that is one element that Hazard will be looking to change from the off. By running between the lines, the Belgian will look to confuse the Liverpool back four and will undeniably provide them with their sternest test of the current league campaign.