x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Eden Hazard in synch but Chelsea still a work in progress

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo is happy with how Eden Hazard has hit the pitch running at the start of the Premier League season.

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo expects Eden Hazard, left, only to get better as the season progresses.
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo expects Eden Hazard, left, only to get better as the season progresses.

London // Roberto Di Matteo has backed Eden Hazard to get even better for Chelsea following the £32 million (Dh185m) man's stunning Premier League debut.

Hazard made a dream start to life in England's top flight during Sunday's opening 2-0 win at Wigan Athletic, claiming two assists inside the opening seven minutes at the DW Stadium.

And Blues fans only have to wait until Wednesday night to see the 21 year old's home debut when Reading visit Stamford Bridge.

Reflecting on Hazard's performance, manager Di Matteo said: "He left his mark on the game.

"In pre-season, he showed that kind of quality in training. Now, in the Premier League, hopefully there's more to come from him."

That could depend on how Hazard deals with the kind of rough treatment dished out to him by Wigan on Sunday, something he shrugged off afterwards.

Di Matteo was also unconcerned that his new playmaker could find himself a marked man.

He said: "He was certainly targeted, but I don't think there was any malicious intent by the Wigan players.

"It's just difficult to mark players like that."

It is just as well Hazard looks like settling in so quickly, with Oscar having only arrived at Chelsea last week and fellow new boy Marko Marin sidelined by a hamstring injury.

Di Matteo said Marin may have to wait almost another month to make his debut.

"It won't be long for Marin, but it might not be before the international break," he said.

He added of Oscar: "We're slowly looking to integrate him, like we did with the other new signings. He's not been long with us, so we need to give him the right time to get him used to his new team members, and our tactics, and slowly put him into the team."

That could mean minimal changes to the side tonight.

"Sometimes, you look at it and think, 'Don't change a winning team', but it doesn't always work this way. We'll see," Di Matteo said. "I haven't made our final decision yet. I have to think about it."

Reading have vowed to throw everything at Chelsea Wednesday night.

The Royals marked their return to the Premier League on Saturday with a 1-1 draw against Stoke thanks to a 90th-minute penalty from Adam Le Fondre.

Brian McDermott's men face a completely different task when they visit Stamford Bridge. The Royals would be forgiven for playing defensively in the hope of salvaging a draw, but Reading midfielder Mikele Leigertwood insists the underdogs will go on the attack in west London.

Last season Swansea's enterprising game saw them take points off Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham, and Leigertwood thinks his team should employ the same approach against Di Matteo's side.

"You can't go in to any games fearing teams or sitting back. You have to attack and put teams under pressure, and I'm sure we'll do that tomorrow," Leigertwood said.

"We have pace in the side and strength up front with Pog [Pavel Pogrebnyak].

"We'll play with a high tempo and that will be good for us.

"We want to give a good account of ourselves and go there and win hopefully.

"We have taken belief from watching teams like Swansea, Norwich and QPR. They all stayed up and it shows that if you go and attack you can do well in this league."

"It feels good to be back in the Premier League.

"Every footballer wants to be playing at the top of their game against the best players in the league so for me it's fantastic."


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