When the group stage draw was finalized the first match that stood out to the Chelsea faithful was the second match of the season against Atletico Madrid. It was determined by many to be the most difficult of Chelsea’s matches as the Colchoneros have been of Europe’s elite in recent years. Their pedigree under Simeone as led to two finals in the last four years including a seminfinal finish in last year’s competition. Chelsea were favorites to advance in second past the group stage, but for the moment their progression could have a higher note.
ALVARO MORATA IS THE FUTURE
Alvaro Morata is the future. The real deal. The drama free goal scoring machine Chelsea needed to lead their line. Yes there was a reason why Antonio Conte brought Morata to Juventus during his time as a manager with the Italian giants, but now he is relishing the opportunity to finally craft Morata into the bigger name he deserves to be. This is not a coincidence, and yet many expected him to find it difficult filling the empty role of the departed Diego Costa. His first Champion’s League goal as a Blue was obviously off a header when Eden Hazard provided the Spaniard with an immaculate cross. Morata could’ve easily had a hat trick belive or not, but with just one goal he made the evening difficult for Atletico’s backline. His ability to move behind the defender, freeing himself from the grasp of Diego Godin, and creating space is exactly what caused migraines for an experienced backline. As long as Chelsea’s midfield provides the aerial threat, Morata just might lead them further than most expected in this season’s European competition.
EDEN WAS A HAZARD TO ATLETICO
Not once did Eden Hazard look as if he had just come off a summer break nursing a broken ankle. In 12 minutes he nearly had an early contender for goal of the season while causing Atletico defenders to spin in circles as if they were rehearsing for their after hours flamenco party. That party looked to be suspended by shame as Hazard showed just why he deserves to be mentioned amongst the world’s greats. When at his best he is without a doubt the Premier League’s best midfielder, and with performances like these Europe will respectfully place his name near the top. His cross for Morata’s equalizing goal was a subject of knowing how to read your striker’s runs. Something not many can master when so much is already riding on their shoulders. Eden Hazard is back, but he was only gone out of his own will.
ANTONIO CONTE IS ENGLAND’S BEST, BUT HOW ABOUT THE WORLD?
Ok so Antonio Conte hasn’t won on the big European stage yet, but his pedigree every match proves why in big moments he is the best manager in that situation. With a high profile match coming up in just three days vs Manchester City, Conte still played what he thought to be his best eleven in a vital group stage match. The best managers know when and how to take risks as we all know. What Conte does however is take risks with the right players on the biggest stage and he wins. Jose Mourinho who is the club’s most decorated manager wasn’t even able to do that under pressure. His calm demeanor on the sideline even during difficult stretches is what keeps his players focused. Against Atletico he simply made tactical changes when Antoine Griezmann scored the game opener. He didn’t yell in a Mourinho-esque negative manner. He kept calm, and forced his players to carry on. They were for the better part of 75 minutes the best team on the pitch. Even knowing when to take off his best two players on the day made a difference. Hazard and Morata were still playing strong, but with a big league match just comping up he knew rest would be an ally to his stars. It made all the difference as Batshuayi scored at a climatic last second moment. There are currently other managers who have won the Champion’s League, and their trophy haul on paper may supercede Conte’s. There is something however these managers currently lack, and that’s the momentum of a team hungry to prove their doubters wrong.