Chelsea appear to have kept hold of their prized asset for the next few months – but club hierarchy remain concerned that Real Madrid could still swoop for Eden Hazard before the European transfer window slams shut.
The Belgian playmaker has been heavily linked with a move to the Bernabeu all summer and, during the World Cup, Hazard made a number of comments flirting with the idea of signing for the European champions.
The Blues were adamant they would not sell their star man and they earned a major victory when the English transfer deadline passed earlier this month with Hazard remaining at Stamford Bridge.
But despite their hard stance on Hazard, the Mirror report that the Blues board are still worried that he will leave for La Liga this month, with European clubs allowed to bring players in until August 31.
The 27-year-old is in the final two years of his contract but there is an offer on the table.
He has been offered £300,000-a-week on a five-year deal but the former Lille forward is desperate to win the Champions League.
And if Chelsea decide not to sell this month, they will almost certainly have to finally give in next year if they do not finish in the top four or win the Europa League.
It is no secret that Real are Hazard’s dream club and after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus it looked likely that Los Blancos would make a move.
However, Chelsea have stood firm and blocked all offers for their mercurial star. Thibaut Courtois was another Blues ace that was desperate to leave for Real but, with the goalkeeper in his final year of his contract, Chelsea could not say no.
The Mirror say Real are looking to test the Stamford Bridge club’s resolve one last time before the end of the month.
The Madrid outfit have a back-up plan, though, should a move fail to materialise.
Paris Saint-Germain could be forced to sell players to balance the books to avoid falling foul of Financial Fair Play regulations.
A number of stars could be made available such as Julian Draxler and Angel Di Maria. And Real are said to be waiting in the wings to see if these stars could be snatched up for a cut-price fee.
The Blues ran out 3-2 winners at Stamford Bridge and enjoyed prolonged spells of possession. However, Unai Emery’s side had their moments on top as well.
Ahead of the encounter, we picked out a few key tactics which may come into play.
Here’s a rundown of what the two managers opted for and how things unfolded.
What we anticipated: Eden Hazard came off the bench against Huddersfield and made an instant impact. As such, we expected Maurizio Sarri to start the Belgian in this fixture. His ability to drift inside and make diagonal runs in behind fits perfectly into the Italian’s system and would’ve given the likes of Hector Bellerin and Shkodran Mustafi several problems.
What happened: Sarri surprisingly chose not to start Hazard, something the Chelsea star addressed after the game, imploring the manager to begin including him in the XI. The ploy to get in behind the Arsenal defence was in play and may have been even more devastating with Hazard involved. The 27-year-old was as threatening as we anticipated when he was introduced though, setting up Marcos Alonso for the winning goal.
Kante’s Advanced Role
What we anticipated: N’Golo Kante was handed a more advanced role at Huddersfield. However, we suggested it’s his ball-winning ability rather than his capacity to contribute to the goals for column which earned him that position. With Sarri employing a high-press, the Frenchman’s tenacity and relentless closing down would come into play.
What happened: Kante was effective without the ball as he put the Arsenal defenders in possession under enormous pressure, forcing several loose passes. The midfielder repeatedly found himself in the box when Chelsea were on the front foot but fluffed his lines when goal-scoring opportunities fell his way.
Three Man Central Midfield
What we anticipated: Matteo Guendouzi had some bright moments against Manchester City but was regularly overwhelmed by the high-press in his attempts to receive the ball from the defence. A disappointing Granit Xhaka failed to offer the 19-year-old who ended up surrendering possession frequently. We suggested that a three man central midfield may help Arsenal cope with Chelsea’s version of the high-press.
What happened: Emery stuck with a 4-2-3-1 system with both Guendouzi and Xhaka retaining their places. Arsenal’s attempts to play the ball out from the back often landed them in trouble, just as it did against City’s high-press. Guendouzi was a lot better on the ball though, justifying the manager’s faith in him. Arsenal were regularly outnumbered in midfield though, handing the advantage to the hosts who enjoyed 62 per cent of possession.
Playing It Safe
What we anticipated: The other system we proposed was one more aligned with what Arsenal played against City and ended up using again at Stamford Bridge. The 4-2-3-1 system above retained the defensive structure the double pivot provides but with the more effective Lucas Torreira partnering Guendouzi. Aaron Ramsey’s deployment as the number 10 could see him keep tabs on Jorginho while the inclusion of Alexandre Lacazette along with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang offers a threat in behind.
What happened: Torreira was left on the bench again and Xhaka put in another disappointing performance. Lacazette didn’t start either but to Emery’s credit, he identified Chelsea’s weakness and began exposing their high-line with overloads down the flanks which worked like a charm. Ramsey was named as a substitute and Mesut Ozil wasn’t able – or inclined – to shadow Jorginho. The Italian had complete freedom in midfield to dictate play, making 99 passes with 92 per cent completion rate.
Jurgen Klopp’s team won 2-0 at Selhurst Park on Monday, when James Milner scored from the penalty spot and Sadio Mane secured all three points in stoppage time after Palace had been reduced to 10 men with Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s dismissal.
What had been a competitive affair changed on the stroke of half-time when Salah went down under minimal contact from Mamadou Sakho to earn the penalty which Palace manager Roy Hodgson has also since criticised.
Palace’s pursuit of an equaliser left them vulnerable to the counter-attacks that ended with Wan-Bissaka’s red card and Mane’s late finish, and midfielder Milivojevic said: “I told him ‘Say to the referee it’s not a penalty’. But he said it was. From his point of view it was a penalty.
“It was not a penalty. During the game that was my opinion and after the game when I saw the image, Mama tried to touch the ball, he did not touch the ball and in my opinion he did not touch the man.
“He fell down and for the referee it was a penalty. I did not see the contact on Salah. For me it was clear; it was not a penalty. That is football.
“This is not the first mistake in football. We were angry in the first minute but in football you do not have time to cry, we carried on, we tried in the second half. We had some good chances. Okay we lost, but we have to be proud.”
Milivojevic played for Serbia during the summer’s World Cup, where the use of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology helped influence similar decisions.
The Premier League remains the only major, top-flight division in European football in which VAR will not contribute to the refereeing of matches, but despite his sense of injustice Milivojevic said: “I do not want VAR in this league. In this country you have the best referees in the world.
“I do not think VAR will help. They are human beings, and they make mistakes sometimes. In his opinion he (Oliver) did the right thing. As players, we have to respect the referee. We are not a team who will cry over that penalty, we just carry on.”
Liverpool’s new-look central defensive partnership of Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk had been significant in them resisting another of the comebacks Palace have engineered under Roy Hodgson, and Van Dijk told the Reds’ official website: “It was very important to win here. We know how difficult it is to come here, so to win and keep a clean sheet as well, I’m a very happy man.
“We had very good moments but also moments that need to be better, especially in ball possession, but overall we need to be very happy that we won here.
“It was going to be very tough, we knew before it was going to be a big fight, but we prepared very well, everyone was up for it and you could see that as well.”