Richard Buxton: Hazard's sizzling form just what Chelsea need
Belgian's sizzling form just what Chelsea need as they plot comeback in title race
Barcelona might be wondering if they have been targeting the wrong Premier League talisman all along.
With Eden Hazard in such irrepressible form again, the Catalans may wish to reconsider their continued pursuit of Philippe Coutinho on the back of Chelsea's 1-1 draw with Liverpool.
No opposing player has shone as brightly at Anfield this season as the Belgium international did yesterday morning (Singapore time), in a first-half performance which showed Juergen Klopp's side just exactly what they continue to miss from their want-away playmaker.
Real Madrid were the object of Hazard's affection - and they still might be - but it's not just the European champions who should be taking note of his continued ascendancy.
He is a player capable of shining over sustained periods.
Like Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane, however, it always comes from a stagnant starting position.
This time around, an injury saw his brilliance largely overshadowed by Kevin de Bruyne's artistry.
But Hazard's compatriot at Manchester City may no longer run away with this season's EPL Player of the Year honour.
At his peak, which Hazard was again at Anfield, he is the perfect No. 10, able to influence games while leading defences on a merry dance as easily as he carves them open.
Liverpool's were no different, although the Reds' well-documented deficiencies arguably made it easier for him to fashion chances in a stellar opening 45 minutes on Merseyside.
Coutinho may justifiably claim that his sole stand-out moment from this match was the most pivotal, as he engineered the build-up to Mohamed Salah breaking the deadlock for the hosts in the 65th minute.
Yet, it still did not absolve him in a performance that was otherwise anonymous.
The Brazilian simply could not compete with Hazard, both indirectly and head-to-head.
When the pair vied for the same ball in Chelsea's penalty area, just minutes before half-time, there was going to be only one winner.
Questions as to why Salah was allowed to leave Stamford Bridge became self-evident; west London was not big enough to accommodate the brilliance of both the Egyptian and Hazard.
Antonio Conte's only regret is that his predecessor took that potential choice out of his hands.
Willian's late equaliser was more deserved than it was supposedly fortuitous.
Conte had set up a team to win on Merseyside in the aftermath of a gruelling Champions League trip to Qarabag, replacing like-for-like with Danny Drinkwater affording Cesc Fabregas an overdue rest.
Caution was key for the Blues, with a five-man backline and a midfield comprising Drinkwater, Tiemoue Bakayoko and N'Golo Kante setting the foundation for Hazard to take centre stage.
Klopp attempted to do something similar, but his own safety-first approach ultimately proved to Liverpool's detriment.
For all the German's bluster, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is nowhere close to replicating even a fraction of Sadio Mane's creativity and pace.
He may not reach that level for some time - something which could also be said for the Reds' title aspirations.
The gulf between Liverpool and City - 11 points before City's visit to Huddersfield Town this morning - could potentially stretch to 17 points before December has even rolled round.
Chelsea's own shortfall of eight points as of yesterday, though difficult, will be easier to bridge with Hazard back on form.