After Atletico ambush, Hazard sets sights on Man City
Eden Hazard says Chelsea will carry the momentum from their superb Champions League win over Atletico Madrid into Saturday’s Stamford Bridge showdown with free-scoring Premier League leaders Manchester City.
Having fallen behind to Atletico in Madrid on Wednesday, Chelsea levelled when Hazard teed up Alvaro Morata and snatched a 2-1 victory with the last kick of the game when substitute Michy Batshuayi stabbed home.
City have been in stunning form since the start of the season, but Hazard believes beating Atletico — Champions League finalists in two of the past four seasons — shows Chelsea can compete with anyone.
“Since I came here, it’s the first time we’ve beaten a really good, really strong team in the Champions League,” Hazard told the Chelsea website.
“We did well, from the first (whistle) to the end of the game. That means we are a good team, we have good players.
“We are very confident, trust me, but Man City are also playing well so it should be a good game. Two great teams, two great managers. We will see.”
Hazard, 26, has been eased back into the team by manager Antonio Conte after undergoing ankle surgery and following three substitute appearances in the league, he is expected to return to the starting line-up against City.
The Belgian’s return to fitness, and form, is a boon for Conte, whose only gripe after Wednesday’s game was that his team have been left with such a relatively short space of time to prepare for Saturday’s match.
Whereas the west London club did not return home until the early hours of Thursday morning, City’s players have had time to rest up since their 2-0 home win over Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.
Even before their win over Atletico, Chelsea had shown signs of returning to last season’s title-winning form.
Test of character
Their 0-0 draw with Arsenal two weeks ago represented the only points they have dropped since their shock 3-2 defeat at home to Burnley on the season’s opening weekend.
Morata netted a hat-trick in last weekend’s 4-0 success at Stoke City and his goal against Atletico means he has now found the net seven times in eight games since his close-season switch from Real Madrid.
Pep Guardiola’s City know a thing or two about scoring goals themselves, of course, having wracked up no fewer than 16 on their last three league outings against Liverpool (5-0), Watford (0-6) and Crystal Palace (5-0).
Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane have amassed 23 goals between them in all competitions and midfielder Fernandinho has revealed City’s attackers are engaged in a private goal-scoring competition.
But City lost home and away to Chelsea last season and midfielder Ilkay Gundogan knows the trip to Stamford Bridge will be a test of his side’s standing as early title favourites.
“It’s a huge game and it’s away, so it’s even more difficult, but we feel ready,” said the Germany international, whose side lead Manchester United on goal difference.
“If you ask the manager there is always something to improve, but we know that we are a great team, we have great players and it’s just up to us to prove that every fourth day.
“It’s also about character, going to Stamford Bridge against the champions to play our game.
“We’re going to prove that we are ready for that and hopefully it will be a great game for us.”
With Benjamin Mendy facing a long period on the sidelines, Fabian Delph could again fill in at left-back for City, his recent displays in the position having helped him to earn an England recall on Thursday.