It’s actually rather incredible that Chelsea have failed to win just two games this season – while taking on four quality sides in Arsenal, Tottenham, Everton and Atletico Madrid – without their most important player, Eden Hazard, making a single start in the Premier League.
Indeed, after missing the majority of pre-season through injury, Antonio Conte has used cup games and substitute outings to slowly build up the Belgium international’s fitness. But last night announced his full return to the Chelsea first-team in emphatic style, starting against Atletico Madrid and inspiring a huge away win in the Champions League.
Diego Simeone’s side are unquestionably the most defensively-resolute outfit in Europe, famed for their quality at the back and all-round organisation, so when they went a goal up through a soft penalty conceded by David Luiz at a corner, a 1-0 defeat seemed largely inevitable in the first continental tie at Atletico’s new home.
But playing alongside Alvaro Morata as a supporting striker in a front two (a variation on the 3-4-3 setup Conte’s Chelsea have become synonymous with) Hazard’s relentless quality quickly brought the Blues back into the match, the 78-cap attacker supplying Morata for the equaliser with a delicious cross that was deftly headed home.
Hazard didn’t play a role in Chelsea’s last-second winner, having been subbed off after 81 minutes with the Premier League clash against Manchester City this Saturday clearly in mind.
But his statistics from what was a phenomenal individual performance at Wanda Metropolitano highlight how instrumental he was in Chelsea’s victory – and how devastating he could be for City’s defence at the weekend.