Amidst all the transfer deadline day excitement and the post-deadline day analysis and reflection and panic stations, we’ve sort of been ignoring all the World Cup qualifying action that has been going on around Europe, Africa, and South America. So let’s check in briefly and see what all the Chelsea boys have been up to.
The most recent action concerns Álvaro Morata, who came off the bench in Spain’s comfortable and impressive 3-0 win over Italy (no Conte masterclass this time, unlike at Euro 2016). Morata scored a goal, as he tends to do, had another one chalked off for offside (well offside), and survived a heavy challenge from Leonardo Spinazzola who was one of the few Italian players to have a decent game otherwise.
The rest of the Chelsea contingent, including Pedro and César Azpilicueta, did not take part though perhaps they will get a run-out against Liechtenstein on Tuesday.
Morata’s Chelsea backup, Michy Batshuayi, also remained on the bench in Thursday’s 9-0 (nine!) win over Gibraltar, which featured Courtois in goal and the return of Eden Hazard to “competitive” action — he collected a goal and an assist. Hazard played over three quarters of an hour and now wants more, though he knows that all Chelsea eyes will be on him and the flying tackles of the Greeks on Sunday.
“I'm happy to have returned to the pitch for a competitive game. I was a little worried during the first five minutes, but I felt good after that. I'm happy.
“I think I'm ready to play Greece, but they're certainly going to kick me, so it's not ideal. The coach will decide. I just want to play football."
-Eden Hazard; source: ESPN
Joining Hazard and Morata in goals was Victor Moses, who helped Nigeria to a very impressive 4-0 win over Cameroon. Moses also picked up an assist on a corner that was finished off by none other than Mikel John Obi! Chelsea loanee Ola Aina did not get to play as his FIFA international clearance was delayed — that’s been sorted now and he should be ready to play on Monday against, once again, Cameroon.
There were also victories for N’Golo Kanté (France 4-0 Netherlands!), Gary Cahill (England 4-0 San Marino), Willian (Brazil 2-0 Ecuador), and substitute Antonio Rüdiger who played the last 30 in Germany’s come-from-behind 2-1 win over the Czech Republic.
Andreas Christensen (Denmark), Mario Pašalić (Croatia), Kurt Zouma (France), and Marco van Ginkel (Netherlands) had watching briefs from their respective benches.
The second set of matches begin on Sunday and finish by Tuesday, after which we’ll get back to the business of proper football.