Eden Hazard has opened up about his preferred playing position following the 1-1 stalemate against Barcelona.
The Belgian played the full 90 minutes of Tuesday’s charged encounter as part of a front three with Willian and Pedro. Rather than deploying a recognised centre-forward, Conte set out to use the threesome’s blistering pace against the Barcelona defence, and was successful for the most part.
However, Hazard had a quiet game – at least by his lofty standards. Despite buzzing around with his usual energy, the 27-year-old couldn’t influence the game as he usually does. As Chelsea’s sole outlet against Barcelona’s high pressing, the pint-sized number 10 struggled against Pique and Umtiti with aerial duels not really part of his impressive arsenal of footballing weapons.
Hazard ‘more comfortable on the wing’
Speaking after the game, the Hazard told reporters: “To be honest, I like the role as a false nine.
“But in games like that against quality opposition like Barcelona, it’s difficult. You don’t get a lot of balls. I might have touched 25 balls that night and 15 of them were flying toward my head.
“That is not really playing to my qualities. I won some aerial duels against Gerard Pique, and that’s not bad.
“But if I had to choose, I prefer to play like I did in the last ten minutes, which was out wide. But it’s the manager who has the final word.
“On the wing I feel more comfortable. That’s my place.”
Hazard’s sentiments echo those of Gianfranco Zola. After seeing Chelsea succumb to two consecutive defeats against Bournemouth and Watford, the Chelsea legend was at the forefront in urging Conte to move the Belgian out wide and use a ‘real’ centre-forward instead.
“When Hazard plays deeper, it allows him to come off the pressure and run at players. It’s perfect for him,” Zola told the Evening Standard.
“He is very similar to what I was as a player. If I had to be the main striker and stay around the box, it would limit my possibilities, my strength. While if I had more space to go around and look for the ball, my game was much better.”
Hazard and co. will hope for better fortunes when they travel to Camp Nou for the second leg next month, with the Catalans having registered a crucial away goal in London. In the meantime, there is Man United and City to think about.