Eden Hazard and Lionel Messi go head-to-head at Stamford Bridge
After all the comparisons, how would Hazard fare against Barca’s talisman?
Eden Hazard often draws comparisons with Lionel Messi so all eyes were on the Belgian playmaker and the Argentine superstar when Chelsea met Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Here, Press Association Sport runs the rule over the illustrious duo at Stamford Bridge.
Antonio Conte left strikers Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud on the bench so Hazard was handed the ‘false nine’ role, with Willian and ex-Barca winger Pedro in support. With Barca’s MSN strikeforce now merely M&S following the departure of Neymar, Messi once again linked up with Luis Suarez in a two-man frontline.
Messi often dropped deep to find the ball, leaving Suarez more isolated but keeping N’Golo Kante on his toes. Hazard popped up on the left, the right and through the middle, determined not to give Barca’s back four a moment’s peace.
Skills and thrills
One sudden burst of acceleration took Messi past N’Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas and Antonio Rudiger and drew gasps from the Stamford Bridge crowd. Hazard twisted and turned the Barca back four whenever he had the opportunity but they held firm.
Messi – who had not scored in his previous eight meetings with Chelsea – had a couple of efforts blocked in the first half. But when his big chance arrived with 15 minutes remaining he made no mistake. Hazard had the first sight of goal in the match, a powerful drive which flew narrowly high and wide in the fifth minute. The Belgian also sent a volley over the top.
Hazard acquitted himself well as the spearhead to Chelsea’s attack, and it was his quick thinking which set up Willian for Chelsea’s opener. But Messi had the last word, with a crucial strike to take the teams back to the Nou Camp all square.