Man City loom large for Blues
CHELSEA HAVE FELT BELGIAN’S LOSS OF FORM Guardiola’s men unstoppable even without De Bruyne.
Chelsea’s Premier League title challenge to Manchester City has faded dramatically in recent weeks as Eden Hazard’s goals have dried up to leave Maurizio Sarri’s men 10 points adrift of the champions ahead of today’s clash between the sides at Stamford Bridge.
Even in the midst of an 18-game unbeaten run after City eased past the Blues 2-0 in the Community Shield in August, Sarri insisted Chelsea wouldn’t be able to last the pace against a team he considers the best in Europe.
However, the Italian admitted his concern at the scale of his side’s downturn in recent weeks as defeats at Tottenham and then at Wolves where Chelsea capitulated from 1-0 up to lose 2-1 on Wednesday.
Those losses as well as a goalless home draw with Everton mean Chelsea are hanging onto their top-four place only on goal difference.
“City are the best team in Europe, maybe the best in the world,” said Sarri. “Manchester City are in another category. We have to play and to fight to be in the top four.”
It is no coincidence that Chelsea’s dip has coincided with Hazard’s early season hot streak cooling off. The Belgian captain stood out as an exception to many players suffering a World Cup hangover. After being crowned the second best player on show in Russia, Hazard scored seven goals in his first six league starts of the season.
At the time, Sarri talked of Hazard having the potential to score 40 goals in a campaign although his previous best for Chelsea was 19.
However, with speculation mounting over whether Hazard will tie his future to the club by signing a new contract worth a reported £350 000 a week or hold out for a move to Real Madrid, the Belgian hasn’t scored in 11 games for club and country dating back two months.
Sarri has blamed a series of niggling injuries as a demanding summer has finally started to take its toll.
“It’s normal at the moment he isn’t at the top of his physical condition,” added the Italian.
Yet, it is clear that without Hazard firing, Chelsea will struggle to even see off Tottenham and Arsenal for a place in the top four, let alone challenge the unbeaten City or Liverpool for the title.
That dependence on Hazard contrasts sharply with City, who have been without another Belgian, Kevin de Bruyne, for practically the whole season and still barely missed a beat.
The outstanding individual in a collective 100-point masterclass as City stormed to the title last season, De Bruyne has played 81 minutes of league football this season due to two prolonged spells on the sidelines with injury. – AFP
MAIN MAN. Eden Hazard is looking to regain some form as they face the daunting task of hosting Manchester City at Stamford Bridge tonight.