Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard has been tasked with repeating his performance against Atletico Madrid when Manchester City visit on Saturday.
Hazard was in scintillating form as Chelsea became the first English team to win at Atletico in Wednesday’s Champions League contest.
The 26-year-old made his second start of the season – after the Nottingham Forest Carabao Cup win – in Madrid and is poised for his first Premier League start of the campaign following three substitute appearances after the broken ankle sustained in June.
Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte said: “If he was able to play one game like the last game against Atletico Madrid it means he’s ready now to play with continuity.
“For us he’s an important player. Last season he had an important season, he played very well, he performed as a top player. I’m very happy for him.”
After Chelsea’s win at Atletico, Conte said his side were being “penalised” by the proximity of the fixture with City, who beat Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.
The City clash is Chelsea’s seventh in 21 days. The international break follows, with Chelsea resuming on October 14 at Crystal Palace.
Conte says he will wait to assess his players, but in a “massive game” it seems inconceivable Hazard would be left on the substitutes’ bench.
The Blues enter this weekend’s fixtures trailing City by three points, with their only defeat coming on the opening day to Burnley.
That sparked talk of a crisis, but Chelsea are unbeaten since, the Diego Costa standoff has been resolved, while Hazard is now fully fit and showed a fine understanding with striker Alvaro Morata in their first start together on Wednesday night.
“When you have good players it’s more simple to find this link, to find this combination, to play together very well,” Conte said.
Conte hinted he was considering fielding the same team as in Madrid after a confidence-boosting result, but there is one enforced change. David Luiz will complete a three-match domestic suspension, so Andreas Christensen will start in defence. Midfielder Danny Drinkwater (calf) the only definite injury absentee.
The Italian said: “It will not be easy to make decisions tomorrow, because, in my eyes, there is the last performance against Atletico Madrid.
“Every single player performed very well in this game. But I have to check the physical condition for every single player and then to make the best decision.”
Conte has previously expressed his admiration for Pep Guardiola’s approach and did so again, saying: “I think every coach must have an own style of football. For sure I have great respect for Pep. I think he’s the best.
“Every coach tries always every day to take more information, new ideas and then try to elaborate with your thoughts. I think Pep is a really good coach. I like to watch his game.”
Guardiola will be without top scorer Sergio Aguero following a car crash on his day off in Holland on Thursday. Conte expressed sympathy for the situation and insisted his players must take responsibility for themselves in their own time.
Conte said: “When you have your day off, you must take your own responsibility to try to make the best decision for you, for the team, for the club.”
Source: By PA Sport Staff