Eden Hazard is the only Prem player who could stroll into Pep's all-conquering Man City team.. but they don't even need the Chelsea ace

Eden Hazard is the only Prem player who could stroll into Pep's all-conquering Man City team.. but they don't even need the Chelsea ace

Mo Salah and Harry Kane might get close to making Pep Guardiola’s team but there is little doubt that Chelsea’s satin-booted talisman is the Premier League’s great individual talent.

Tomorrow, he is up against the league’s great team and when asked about facing the champions on Belgian TV, there was a wistful sound to Hazard’s comments.

He said: "I think that City find more solutions in their play than we do. We have plenty of possession, but we often have to rely on individual actions to score goals.

“City are all about team play. You can see a lot of movement from them. That creates spaces, they get their crosses in, and I think they have more answers that way.”

Hazard, who has just 18 months left on his Stamford Bridge contract, sounded tired of having too much pressure thrust upon his shoulders.

It is a responsibility which has proved onerous in recent weeks.

Having led the Premier League scoring charts in October, Hazard has failed to score in two months, taking in seven games for Chelsea and four for his national team.

Maurizio Sarri’s Blues have often failed to impress since Hazard’s goals dried up, losing at Tottenham and Wolves, being held at home by Everton and sneaking a late draw against Manchester United.

With neither of Chelsea’s centre forwards, Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud, in prolific form, there is a huge onus on Hazard in tomorrow’s Oil Firm derby against City.

Hazard is certainly not wrong in his assessment of the two teams. Chelsea’s "Sarri-ball" too often looks like possession for possession’s sake.

City, even at their most beautiful, always possess a murderous intent. Even if they tickle you death, they’ll still kill you.

City are the fresh princes of pass-and-move, operating like an eleven-a-side five-a-side team.

Opponents must surely be able to foresee the way in which they are likely to concede – even while they are helpless to prevent it.

The swift passing, the overload, the cut-back, the virtual tap-in – it’s a blueprint which never gets boring.

The sort of goal Arsene Wenger always used to dream about, now made flesh by City.

Yet as the Chelsea man himself said, half-jokingly, this week: “It's true [City] don't have an Eden Hazard. That is the difference!"

Chelsea are desperate to keep hold of Hazard and would be willing to make him the highest-paid player in the world to do so.

Yet he will turn 28 next month and appears to be craving one big move before it is too late.

Real Madrid are always touted as his likely destination and since Hazard’s breakthrough World Cup as well as Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit from the Bernabeu, that fit has looked even better.

Yet Real are currently a basket-case club on and off the pitch.

Under caretaker management and struggling to keep touch in La Liga, it is also uncertain whether they could match Chelsea’s contract offer next summer.

City, of course, do not actually need Hazard.

Riyad Mahrez is now clicking, with a glorious assist and a finish in the midweek win at Watford, while Leroy Sane is back, even scoring with his chest.

With Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Bernardo Silva, that support cast for City’s No 9 is already over-full.

The very idea of Hazard joining City sounds like a pudding that is simply too rich.

And if the threat of a European ban for City is realised, this would limit Hazard’s ambitions.

It is a move which will probably never happen – but it sounds as if Hazard has at least imagined it, while Pep the purist would surely love it.

Despite all of their Abu Dhabi oil wealth, City cannot always get whomever they want.

The one player in the Chelsea line-up who was actively targeted by Guardiola last summer, was midfielder Jorginho – who chose to re-join his Napoli boss Sarri at the Bridge instead.

Jorginho had been earmarked to eventually replace the brilliant but ageing Fernandinho in the anchor role, instead he dislodged N’Golo Kante from his preferred deep-lying berth at the Bridge.

Yet as Chelsea’s early promise foundered, even Jorginho has struggled – he was successfully negated by Dele Alli in the Wembley defeat by Spurs and City are sure to attempt something similar at the Bridge.

When Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea, it was they who were supposed to dominate English football for as far as the eye can see.

But after the City takeover blew even the Russian oligarch out of the water, Chelsea are now just another club wondering how on Earth Guardiola’s City can be stopped.

While trying to justify Manchester United’s four-match winless league run, Jose Mourinho shrugged his shoulders and said "and of course EVERYONE loses to City" – as if he’d never been brought to Old Trafford to actually compete with Guardiola.

It is a sense of defeatism most of the top flight share.

City are still only two points clear of Liverpool, while no club has successfully defended the Premier League title for a decade, so they face no easy task.

Yet such is their majesty that many rivals appear to be giving up the ghost.

It will take something very special to beat City but Chelsea do at least possess that something, in Hazard.

Chelsea’s old mates up at Anfield will be rooting for him today.

For them, if not for Chelsea, he might even open up some sort of title race.


TWO players we won’t see in the starting line-ups at Stamford Bridge this evening are Phil Foden and Callum Hudson-Odoi, two of England’s two brightest stars when they won last year’s Under-17 World Cup.

While contemporaries such as Jadon Sancho, Reiss Nelson, Morgan Gibbs-White and Ryan Sessegnon are expressing their talents on the big stage, City midfielder Foden and Chelsea wideman Hudson-Odoi struggle for meaningful action.

But with such good role models among their peers, Foden and Hudson-Odoi must surely be getting itchy feet.


THE country is being torn apart by Brexit, Parliament resembles the Muppet Show on all sides, the ocean levels are rising and the weather is appalling.

Yet the literal translation from German of the name of Southampton’s new Austrian manager Ralph Hasenhuttl really is "Ralph Rabbit Hutch".

As a nation, can we not just rejoice at that?


WE are only a small movement but we are convinced of our righteousness.

Some of us don’t just hate the impending introduction of VAR, which will take so much passion out of football and remove little of the controversy.

Some of us fundamentalists are still opposed to goal-line technology and don’t believe Arsenal’s opener at Manchester United, which crossed the line by an inch or so, should have been awarded.

Secret discussions are under way in our guerilla group for a campaign of civil disobedience aimed at keeping football in real time.

We intend to scramble signals, bend aerials, cut wires, that sort of thing. The worry is we’re so technophobic we don’t really know how…

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