Don’t play Hazard up front, say former Chelsea players

Pundits believe Chelsea will pose Barcelona more problems with an out-and-out striker

Chelsea go into tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) Champions League clash with Barcelona at the Nou Camp needing to score, and three former Blues players believe their best hopes of finding the net is not playing Eden Hazard up front.

In recent times, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has regularly played his Belgian playmaker as a false No. 9, including during the first leg which ended 1-1 at Stamford Bridge - a result which means the La Liga side hold an away-goal advantage.

  • Teams tied at 1-1 after first leg

The Blues' out-and-out strikers have not had the best of times lately - Alvaro Morata last scored in December while Olivier Giroud has found the net just once since his arrival from Arsenal in January.

Hazard, meanwhile, has questioned his deployment up front and Conte's tactics. After the 1-0 loss to Manchester City two weeks ago, he said: "I was trying to jump, but it's not easy to win duels against Nicolas Otamendi and Aymeric Laporte.

"We didn't play to our strengths today. If Morata or Giroud played, it would have been easier to play with long balls."

It's a sentiment shared by former Chelsea players Frank Lampard, Marcel Desailly and Pat Nevin.

Lampard believes Conte should play Morata up front against Barcelona, writing in his column for the London Evening Standard: "There is obviously a question over whether Conte will play with a striker or revert to the false No. 9 he used in the first leg.

"I would certainly consider picking Morata to lead the line with Hazard and Willian behind... What Morata can also provide is a target for Chelsea players to aim at and someone who can run in behind.


"He can do that job more naturally than Hazard, who without the responsibility of playing up front can get more involved in the game himself.

"What Fernando Torres did in 2012 shows what a recognised striker can give you against Barcelona. There is that opportunity to play balls over the top to get out."

Chelsea beat a heavily fancied Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate in the 2012 Champions League semi-finals en route to winning the trophy.

Lampard's former Blues teammate Desailly agreed that Conte should play Morata up front.

He told ESPN: "We want to have back a Chelsea that is collectively able, especially defensively, to handle the opponent.

"I'm surprised about the tactical set-up (in the first leg) that he (Conte) chose, but maybe for the return match he will bring back Morata on Spanish soil and have all around him players who can run fast and make the difference."

However, former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin has plumped for Giroud, citing his performance in the 2-1 win over Crystal Palace last Saturday.

He told Chelsea's club website: "(Willian) is in sparkling form and he will almost certainly start against Barcelona, but I think Giroud has made a much better case than many might think after the weekend.

"As usual at the Nou Camp, just like every other team, we will not have the lion's share of the possession...

"So, it may not always be the most pleasing on the eye, but realistically now and again, you will need to be able to clear your lines and hit it long.

"If at that moment there is a big centre forward capable of battling and holding the ball, it can make a huge difference.

"It can then allow the likes of Willian and Eden Hazard to join the attack, and that is when we are at our most dangerous."