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Chelsea vs. Watford, Premier League: Three keys to the game for Antonio Conte

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Chelsea FC v AS Roma - UEFA Champions League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Peak Eden Hazard

The last two games Eden Hazard played in the Champions League, against Atlético Madrid and AS Roma, have both been showstopping performances. In between, his performances in the two league games, against Manchester City and Crystal Palace, have not been anywhere near as impressive. For Chelsea to get back on the winning track, we’re going to need Hazard to reproduce his European form in the Premier League as well.

Regardless of how Conte will arrange the Chelsea midfield, whether Bakayoko or David Luiz will be involved or not, Eden Hazard will have to play a decisive role. That doesn’t necessarily mean scoring the goals themselves — we do have an excellent center forward and several other players with an eye for goal, after all — but he will have to run the proverbial show.

When Hazard plays well, Chelsea invariably tend to as well. More importantly, when Hazard doesn’t play well, Chelsea invariably do not. With Eden likely getting a rest next Wednesday in the League Cup, it’s time to step up and give it his all and carry the team once again.

Watford v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Tread carefully

Watford are having a really strange season so far, and I don’t mean that in a negative way, at least not from their perspective. They’re the only team in the top nine without a positive goal differential, having scored 13 and conceded just as many. Every other team in the top five have a goal differential of at least plus-five; Watford’s goal differential is exactly zero. That’s strange.

Part of that is of course their 6-0 shellacking at the hands of rampant Manchester City, which is a strange collapse considering most of their other games. In their first six games of the season in all competitions, including the League Cup second round loss to a second division club, they kept three clean sheets and conceded 12 goals in the other three games. Also strange.

The more we look at their team, their results, and their league standing, the more strange it all seems. None of it really makes sense ... which in turn makes them randomly dangerous. This has nothing to do with tactics or talent. They’re outperforming their own indicators in a variety of ways, and while that’s probably not sustainable, it also means that until they revert to some sort of mean, it’s tough to know what to expect.

Chelsea will just have to concentrate on executing our own gameplan to the best of our abilities.

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Magically heal N’Golo Kante

Diego Costa had his horse placenta. Kobe Bryant had his German doctor. Antonio Rüdiger somehow magicked his ACL injury away in 2016. Whatever Kanté needs to do, it needs to be done. And we’re only half-joking.

Chelsea’s inability to control the midfield without Kanté however is no laughing matter. Conte even went against his own thinking against AS Roma, to no avail. We’re thus likely to see the 3-4-3 again today rather than the 3-5-2, but without Kanté, neither option seems all that confidence inspiring.

In theory, Fabregas and Bakayoko should be adequate enough. In practice ... well, miss you, N’Golo!