With several eyebrow-raising performances against relatively mediocre opponents, today could be the day that Eden Hazard really stamps his foot down in the Premier League and shows everyone what he can do when put to the test. We take a look at what to look out for and, if possible, how to combat it.
It is very rare to look at a team sheet and see a player who is as majestic as Hatem Ben Arfa or who creates as much anticipation between the fans in the stands, but Eden Hazard seems to have really lit up the opening week of the new Premier League campaign with several moments of magic – not to different from what we often see on a Saturday afternoon when our No. 10 takes to the field – and a hand in five of Chelsea’s six goals this season.
He has certainly made a name for himself thus far, but what can we expect from the Belgian International this evening?
Despite scoring 36 goals in 147 league appearances for Lille and scoring a hat-trick in his last game for the club, Hazard hasn’t looked like much of a goal threat over the last two games. This could be because he is trying to get used to the Premier League, but it seems as though he is the type of player who would rather help others score than go for goal himself.
This could see Chelsea play more of a passing game to what we may expect, something which may suit a more stand-off approach and a counter-attacking style. This has worked in the past, especially against Swansea last season, but could prove considerably harder against the current holders of the Champions League.
Hazard can play on either wing and, in terms of dribbling, seems to be all right foot. Should he play on the right, we can probably expect to see a fair few crosses coming in to Torres and, with Steven Taylor and possibly Mike Williamson looking to be in the first 11 today, Newcastle would probably prefer that.
However, should Hazard play on the left, we could expect to see a very Ben Arfa-esque performance, with Hazard cutting in, tearing apart our rather fragile full-back in Danny Simpson and looking for a shot, killer pass or a penalty. In this case, the best Newcastle could hope for would be to cut off all communication to other players and make sure he doesn’t get in the box.
Sometimes you just have to accept that a player may just be too good to go up against head-on. I’m sure Cabaye and Pardew have spoken about how to combat Hazard’s playing style, but I can’t see our defence keeping him at bay all game, especially with Fabricio Collocini poised to miss today’s clash at Stamford Bridge.
With another 3 or 4 players posing an attacking threat, such as Mata, Torres, Lampard etc, I think Chelsea could just be a task too far today. However, as we saw many times last season – and even in our first game this season – all it takes is one chance and, if Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse can emulate the form they’ve shown at times during their short spells on Tyneside, we can certainly have a chance of getting a few goals, especially with skipper John Terry out.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-3 Chelsea