Hazard leads the way for star-studded Chelsea
Chelsea's Belgian midfielder Edin Hazard (L) celebrates scoring his penalty with Spanish striker Fernando Torres (R) AFP PHOTO/OLLY GREENWOOD
So far, so predictable for Chelsea. Three games played, three wins and not even the first murmurings of discontent that coach Roberto di Matteo might not the right man to lead the Blues.
The west London club got off to the easiest of starts in the new Premier League campaign, kicking off against a toothless Wigan on the opening day of the season.
It took Belgian wunderkind Eden Hazard all of two minutes to make an instant impact on his Premier League debut, swivelling in midfield before releasing a marauding Branislav Ivanovic to crash home the opener.
After four stellar seasons at French club Lille, Hazard linked up with the Blues over the summer along with German attacking talent Marko Marin and Brazilian youngster Oscar, but it’s Hazard who is the undoubted jewel in the transfer crown.
Already compared by some to the great Gianfranco Zola, the fleet-footed Hazard has won two penalties, converted another spot-kick and set up a raft of opportunities for a rejuvenated Fernando Torres in his three league appearances to date.
Categorised by some pundits before the season as a risky signing, Hazard has already proved to be a shrewd acquisition for the Blues.
That’s particularly the case if continues to link up with a Torres looking leaner and meaner up front than at arguably any other stage of his Chelsea career.
The former Atletico Madrid and Liverpool star has always been a fits and spurts kind of player but with Didier Drogba no longer the main man up front, Torres looks ominous with goals in each of his past two games.
He won’t have been thrilled with the recent signing of former Wigan striker Victor Moses, but having collected the Golden Boot at Euro 2012, Torres is looking to put a couple of frustrating years behind him to replicate the form which once made him one of the world’s most dangerous strikers.
With the personnel at their disposal there’s no reason Chelsea shouldn’t nab at least a top-four finish again this season, even if several of their most talismanic stars – think Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, John Terry, Frank Lampard – are well and truly getting on in years.
But perhaps the biggest question surrounding the Stamford Bridge side is over coach di Matteo.
The former Italian international took over from the departed Andre Villas-Boas midway through last season and promptly steered the Blues to an unexpected FA Cup and UEFA Champions League double.
But his first full season in charge is likely to be much tougher, particularly now that the honeymoon period is over as far as trigger-happy owner Roman Abramovich is concerned.
Chelsea’s first real Premier League test comes against London rivals Arsenal at the end of next month and di Matteo will be eager to prove himself against the Gunners’ venerated tactician Arsene Wenger.
There’s also a tasty little trip to local rivals Queens Park Rangers next time out, where Terry will face the man who accused him of using a racial slur last season, QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.
It will be interesting to see if Terry is snubbed in the pre-match handshake stakes by Ferdinand following their bitter and acrimonious legal dispute.
And with Manchester United – and Anton’s brother Rio – also looming on the immediate horizon, the Blues will be keen to keep cool heads in a couple of fiery upcoming fixtures.
But on the whole it’s been a positive start for the three-time Premier League winners , who may just have uncovered a new superstar in the form of Eden Hazard.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman
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