John Brewin: Eden Hazard is carrying the Chelsea attack on his shoulders

Our football writer John Brewin is as knowledgeable as they come and he believes Eden Hazard is ploughing a lone furrow at The Blues…

“The best player in the Premier League,” said Jamie Carragher. Eden Hazard had just slalomed through Liverpool’s defence and smashed the ball past Simon Mignolet to score Chelsea’s Carabao Cup winner at Anfield.

It is a claim that Kevin de Bruyne or Harry Kane might dispute, and even Paul Pogba on a rare good day for Manchester United, but Carragher’s opinion was valid enough.

In the six years Hazard has been in English football, there have been lengthy spells when he has transcended the rest.

When the two teams reconvene at Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening, and they will be very different teams than the experimental, bit-part collections assembled at Anfield, Hazard will need to be at his best again.

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Liverpool’s A-team on its A-game has unrivalled firepower in English football at the moment, while Hazard is carrying a considerable burden.

Where Liverpool have Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, Hazard is accompanied by the likes of Olivier Giroud, Alvaro Morata, Pedro and Willian. None of them could be said to be wholly consistent, and all are on a lower rung of talent than the Belgian.

To watch Morata presented with a scoring chance is a trip down Memory Lane to recall Fernando Torres in a Chelsea rather than Liverpool shirt.

Like his fellow Spaniard during his long periods of misery after his January 2011 signing for £50m, Torres played like someone afraid of the penalty area and the test of mettle it would provide him, a striker who had lost his confidence in front of goal.

Morata is not quite at that point; he is still finding himself in positions to score. But, he has been guilty of a series of misses and each one damages a visibly dwindling confidence.

Against Liverpool, Giroud is likely to start in Morata’s stead though the Frenchman is yet to score a single goal, something Morata has managed once, in August’s 3-2 defeat of Arsenal.

Maurizio Sarri is likely to field the Frenchman in a similar role to that which he fulfilled in winning the World Cup, as the target man off which team-mates feed, for whom goals are not necessarily the be all and end all.

His link to Hazard should be vital to Chelsea’s chances of ending Liverpool’s one hundred percent record.

To be just two points off Liverpool represents what a fine start Chelsea have made to their season, and unexpectedly so.

Behind the scenes, there is turmoil and uncertainty, with owner Roman Abramovich yet to return to his executive box after visa issues that include the Swiss government ruling him to be the complete opposite of a fit and proper person.

On the field though, there has been a pleasing speed of progress under a new manager. Sarri does not quite have Chelsea dancing to his tune yet, but his fingerprints are all over the way the team plays.

Jorginho continues to be a stats-buster, making a record 180 attempts to distribute the ball against West Ham last week and the midfielder who came with Sarri from Napoli has speedily become a dominant presence.

Passing for passing’s sake? At times that can look like a fair accusation, but the Italy international gives Chelsea a control in midfield that Cesc Fabregas’ weary legs could no longer exert.

That has had the by-product of displacing N’Golo Kante from his preferred position in the deep of midfield.

The sight of the ultimate worker playing off the front man still feels like an oddity, and alongside him, Mateo Kovacic has so far been unable to impose his own passing game, another player perhaps shrinking in the presence of Jorginho.

Those teething problems suggest a machine nowhere near as well-oiled as Liverpool’s, in which James Milner has been the outstanding player in midfield, and at the cost of a regular runout for £40m signing Fabinho.

Jurgen Klopp’s squad, transformed almost completely during the near-three years the German has been in charge, bursts with options while Sarri, for whom the majority of the summer spending went on securing Kepa from Athletic Bilbao, is having to make do and mend with the squad left him by Antonio Conte – with quite a few remnants from Jose Mourinho’s second spell at the club.

Hazard joined in the summer of 2012 when Roberto di Matteo was manager, and has played for four other managers since, Rafa Benitez completing the quintet.

He has never been less than influential; his personal slumps in form have usually coincided with Chelsea’s slumps.

The good news for Chelsea is that Hazard is playing with his head up, enjoying the game after being a star for Belgium at the World Cup. He will both the player Chelsea look to, and Liverpool need to stop.

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