I think it is time for Eden Hazard to raise his level on the big stage. He has been tremendous for Chelsea since he signed for the club. But in the Champions League I have been a little bit frustrated because I haven’t seen the great Hazard yet.
Everyone knows what he can do on the pitch but he has to start doing it in the Champions League and with the Belgium national team. If he wants to be seen alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, he has to raise his game and this match is ideal for him to do that.
The fighter Olivier Giroud will play a new role for Chelsea that will help Hazard a lot. Hazard was missing a Giroud-type person – this is the kind of player he will love to play with. Giroud is not the kind of player who is going to ask for the ball behind defenders.
But Chelsea have fast players anyway and Giroud is very physical, especially in the penalty area and he can bring players in as well. He reminds me of Diego Costa with his fighting spirit and his mentality. You know what you can expect from him. He always gives 100 per cent on the pitch. It’s a very good buy for Chelsea and it’s a good opportunity for Olivier.
I think he can have a big impact against Barcelona – especially on set-pieces, which is an area I think they can cause Barcelona problems.
For me, the relationship between Antonio Conte and some of his players has been bad and I think that started with what happened with Costa. I think the dressing room has been affected by that. There was the story of Conte and Costa, and then David Luiz. You couldn’t imagine after they became champions that all these things would happen so quickly.
But the players have to forget everything because this is the kind of game that everyone wants to play in their career. If I was in that Chelsea dressing room, I would put away what I think and try and concentrate on winning the game as a unit. Forget things that aren’t going well with the manager and concentrate on what is in front of you – one of the biggest teams in the world. If you start thinking you have problems before coming on the pitch, you should stay in the dressing room.
If you want to stop Lionel Messi, you have to play as a team. I remember when Guus Hiddink’s Chelsea with Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry played Barcelona in the 2009 semi-final and were unlucky not to win because of refereeing decisions. Some of the players were warriors on the pitch. Drogba was a leader. They were physically ready for the fight.
What happened at the end would have been hard to swallow but that night they showed the ingredients you need. That was one of the greatest Barca teams with Xavi and Anders Iniesta but Chelsea played with aggression, energy, intensity and togetherness. When you don’t have the ball, you have to be very compact and not leave space between the lines because Messi loves that.
But when you get the ball, you need to play it as fast as possible in the counter attack. You have to be very fast in transition.
I played less than 30 games in my one season at Barcelona and most were in defence. It was a season to forget. We went out in the group stage of the Champions League and went into the Europa League – and at Barcelona, you cannot be playing in the Europa League.
It was not good timing for me to go there. There were too many rivalries in the dressing room between the captain, Pep Guardiola, and the Dutch players. Too many politics. We were a bunch of very talented players but the spine of the team was too old and there were too many troubles on and off the pitch.
I was disappointed with what was happening with the club and I wanted to come back to England. When I moved to Chelsea, I had to prove that my heart was blue and not red because a lot of fans still believed I was a Gunner. The reception I had in the dressing room was good and my first season went well.
But then I had too many physical problems and my spell at Chelsea ended in a bad way.
Emmanuel Petit was speaking to the Sun’s David Coverdale as a Paddy Power ambassador. The original interview can be found here.