Chelsea v Barcelona - Eden Hazard I want to shine against Barcelona.

All Chelsea eyes will be on Eden Hazard this evening as we look to our inspirational Belgian to lead the Chelsea attack.  Eden Hazard ...

All Chelsea eyes will be on Eden Hazard this evening as we look to our inspirational Belgian to lead the Chelsea attack. 

Eden Hazard will continue to be compared to both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi because he is that good. Arguably behind them as the third or fourth best player in world football, he is yet to produce the goods for Chelsea when it matters on the biggest stage.

His previous experience playing for Chelsea in the Champions League has been hit and miss if we are honest but it’s important to note that it was a different time, in a different position and not under the management of Antonio Conte.

For years we have heard rumours that Hazard has always asked previous managers to play him where in he believes that his best position is as the number ten in behind in the main striker. For whatever reason in the past it didn’t happen, and the Belgian had to influence games from the wide positions on the pitch or, to first cut inside to then attack the space in front of the opponents defence.

Don’t get me wrong as we have to hold our hands up and admit he did fantastically well in doing so but you always felt that there was plenty more to come from him. Could we adapt our tactics to enable him to play where he feels he belongs? Could we build a team around him to get the best out of him and the potential of the other players? Enter Antonio Conte.

Taking you back to the beginning of last season and the Italian head-coach decided to start the year by giving the players a level of continuity and decided to stick with the previous formation implemented at the club. It was a chance for the players to show Conte what they offer as individuals but also to the team. As we know, that pretty much fell apart in the two defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal and signalled a new tactical approach from the Italian.

Having seen how unbalanced the team was, how open we were at the back and noting that the current system did not enable the likes of Hazard to maximise his influence in games, Antonio Conte made his now famous tactical switch to the 3-4-3 formation and handed Eden Hazard the perfect opportunity to exploit his talent.

Almost 18-months on look at the difference in the Belgian and in Chelsea. Premier League Champions, back in the Champions League and Eden Hazard having another superb season at the club on form, creating and scoring goals.

Talking ahead of tonight's encounter with Barcelona, he said:

"Every game I try and play my best football. Last year we didn't play Champions League, but this year we are back and I played a few good games: Atletico Madrid away, Roma, here against Madrid. You want to shine when you play the best in the world. If I want to reach that level, I need to play a great game.

It's good to be compared with the greatest ever, Messi or (Cristiano) Ronaldo. But I'm completely different. We play in a different league. I try to do my job and try to reach their level because they are the best in the world. Every season I try and do my best.

When we play these kinds of games, we need to perform. If you want to be one of the best, you have to play well in the big games. This is a big game. Let's go for it and try to give everything.” - Source: The Telegraph.

I had mentioned that in the Champions League in previous seasons, Eden Hazard’s form has been hit and miss, up and down as he struggled to find a level of consistency in the big, big games. Granted, the reason for that could be down to the defensive constraints he was asked to undertake under Jose Mourinho for example, but this year there has been signs that even when Chelsea have stuttered as a team (Atletico at home, Roma at home), Hazard has stepped up to lead our attack which is good to see.

His performance on the night against Atletico Madrid away would have raised a few eyebrows across Europe without question. Here was Hazard playing through the middle (or anywhere he wanted to as he looked to try and influence the game), supporting the main striker and was the outstanding man-of-the-match for Chelsea. Atletico could not live with his pace, his movement with the ball at his feet and his trickery and he thrived on that. Unlucky not to score when his deflected effort from 25-yards hit the post, he was still able to provide the important assist for our first goal with a glorious ball into the box for Alvaro Morata to flick into the net to score. He was the man-of-the-match without question.

Chelsea require two performances from Eden Hazard like that in these two games against Barcelona if we are to go through. He has the ability to cause Sergio Busquets all-sorts of problems tonight if he can have him turned, beat him and attack the Barcelona defensive line. Barcelona would not have faced anyone like Hazard playing in this position in La Liga, Spain and it would be interesting to see how they cope with him tonight. Cristiano Ronaldo normally starts games wide, pushed up to then move into a centre forward position not through the middle as Eden Hazard would do this evening.

The important thing for us tonight is to play compact but not too deep. If our defence drops off ten yards deeper than they should be, that will suck our midfield line back with them and leave Hazard exposed and literally out of the game. He spoke yesterday in his pre-match press conference of defending first as a team which is encouraging but, we must look to play the ball to Hazard when we go forward and attack as he needs the ball as much as possible if we are to have a chance of the right result.

It’s arguably the biggest game of Chelsea’s season so far and a game we have been dreaming of ever since we took our place back in the biggest club competition in the world. It’s nights such as these that create memories (hopefully good ones) and stage for the Chelsea players to shine. None more so tonight than Eden Hazard.

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