Football

Chelsea boss Conte may have stumbled onto a winning formula up front

Chelsea boss may have stumbled onto a winning formula up front

Chelsea bounced back from last Saturday's shock 1-0 loss to West Ham United by seeing off Huddersfield Town 3-1 in the English Premier League at the John Smith's Stadium yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Goals by Tiemoue Bakayoko, Willian and Pedro Rodriguez gave the Blues a comfortable advantage before Laurent Depoitre pulled one back for the hosts in injury time.

The result moved Chelsea level on points with second-placed Manchester United ahead of the Red Devils' match with Bournemouth this morning.

The New Paper picks out four talking points from Chelsea's return to winning ways.

FRONT THREE LEAVES CONTE WITH MUCH TO PONDER

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte opted to leave his No. 1 striker Alvaro Morata out of the side due to "tiredness" and a back problem, but his rejigged front three responded in style.

Eden Hazard was his usual imperious self, Pedro Rodriguez found the net and Willian scored one and set up two.

Hazard told BT Sport: "There was fantastic movement from the front three. Well, when you have the players we have...

"The manager wants us to move a lot, not stay in the same position."

Pedro and Willian have been in and out of Conte's starting XI this season, making a combined total of 21 cameos off the bench.

On yesterday's showing, Conte might want to start the trio together more often.

TURNING POINT FOR BAKAYOKO?

Bakayoko arrived with a big reputation and big boots to fill.

His splendid performances for Monaco as they won Ligue 1 and reached the Champions League semi-finals last season earmarked him as a potential upgrade on Nemanja Matic, who was sold to Manchester United.

But the £40 million (S$72.1m) French midfield tyro has had a difficult start to life in England, with EPL pundits rounding on the 23-year-old.

Phil Neville said the sale of Matic was "one of the poorest decisions I have ever seen in the Premier League", Frank Lampard claimed Bakayoko "sleeps" during games while Rio Ferdinand said "I'm not sure what kind of midfielder he is".

Yesterday, the Frenchman responded to the mounting criticism with his best performance in a Chelsea jersey, leading Conte to say: "Tonight maybe I saw the best performance from Baka."

Has the tide began to turn for Bakayoko?

TITLE TALK

After a slow start to their title defence, Chelsea have quietly established themselves as the closest contenders to the Manchester clubs for the EPL title.

Conte, however, is having none of that.

He said: "When you have a competitor like City and every game they are winning, it is very difficult to think you can fight for the title because (you can see) 'a negative, a positive'... this is bulls***.

"We must be realistic and tell the truth. I prefer to tell the truth than a good lie...

"But it doesn't mean we don't want to try to catch them but we have to hope they have a big, big slip and for us then to win every game in this league."

But Willian is more optimistic, telling BT Sport: "We are Chelsea, and we have to fight until the end."

BLUES CAN'T LOSE HAZARD

Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo yesterday claimed that Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane and club president Florentino Perez will meet this week in Abu Dhabi to discuss a move for Hazard.

The flirtation between Hazard and Real has been happening for a few years now and his form this season has fuelled the talk further.

But former Chelsea players Joe Cole and Ray Wilkins believe their former club have to keep him at all costs and build their team around the Belgian.

Cole told BT Sport: "When you've got a gem like him in your side you've got to build around him.

"What makes him special is his game intelligence. He always makes the right decisions, and he's strong as an ox."

Wilkins, meanwhile, told Sporting Bet: "As long as Chelsea are competitive, I don't think Hazard will leave...

"Of course, Real Madrid can attract any player, because of their history, but Chelsea are also a very attractive place to be and the club is always in the hunt for major trophies - so I don't see the urge for him to leave."

 

Football