The topic of Eden Hazard not getting any protection from referees has become relevant once again, with Liverpool the latest team to try the hack-a-Hazard strategy for stopping Chelsea’s Messi-ah.
That it was Mo Salah who delivered the worst blow on Saturday was a bit ironic, given the apparent friendship between the two former Chelsea teammates (who ended up still swapping shirts), but whether intentionally or unintentionally, he just did exactly what players on Roma, Manchester United, West Brom, and so on and so forth have all tried in recent weeks. In fact, the only reason Hazard has gotten a bit of respite from all the kicking this season is because he suffered a broken ankle over the summer and missed the first few weeks of the campaign.
So, perhaps an actual rest and rotation is in order as we head into the meaty winter schedule, though Conte knows he’d be taking a risk one way or another.
“In every game I have to make the best decision and try to protect every player. I’d like to start every game with the best players but at the same time that’s not possible because otherwise I wouldn’t be protecting them. We have a long season. It’s not easy to leave great players to rest but I have to do this because I want the best for the team and the players.”
After the Liverpool game, Conte spoke about his happiness at being able to call on quality from the bench, with many of those players making a huge impact in midweek against Qarabag as well. Willian in particular has been impactful, and now Conte has urged all others to follow that example.
“The most important thing for us is to have all of our players available because in this period, which is very busy, it will be very important to have rotation. November, December and January will be a busy period, we’ve just started it and for this reason I need to rotate and get a good answer from my players.
“I think to give the opportunity to my players will be very important because in this way we keep the concentration very high. The players who need to rest can do this. Don’t forget if you play every game and you stop to train, the probability of getting injured is very high. It will be important to create a good balance between games and training.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Chelsea FC
With all that in mind, we should be expecting rotation for tomorrow night’s game against Swansea City, probably similar to the rotation we got against Qarabag last Tuesday. Complicating matters a bit are injuries to David Luiz and questions over Batshuayi’s fitness.
Against Qarabag, Hazard got the start at center forward, with Conte concerned over Morata being able to start three games in seven days. It could be Hazard’s turn to rest this time, with hopefully Batshuayi becoming available to start over the weekend against Newcastle to keep Morata from wearing out — all this is assuming we’re not trying something silly like playing Pedro and Willian as the striker duo up top in a 3-5-2.
The rest fall in line, with Moses making his return and Fabregas rotating in. There is no rest for Alonso in sight until maybe the Atletico game when we could afford to play Kenedy.
Courtois | Cahill, Christensen, Azpilicueta | Alonso, Kante, Fabregas, Moses | Pedro, Morata, Willian
The WAGNH community’s preference is along similar lines, but with Hazard retaining his spot in favor of Pedro (32%) and Rudiger getting the nod over Captain Cahill (50%).
Courtois (95%) | Rudiger (63%), Christensen (66%), Azpilicueta (84%) | Alonso (89%), Kante (93%), Fabregas (81%), Moses (59%) | Hazard (82%), Morata (95%), Willian (51%)