Three reasons why Alvaro Morata will shine if selected for Chelsea this evening

Chelsea return to Champions League action this evening against Qarabag as they look to take the first steps towards mounting a serious title challenge both domestically and abroad. Antonio Conte’s side will go into the game on the back of a tight 2-1 win over Leicester City at the weekend as they extend their winning run to three games this season.

They face something of an unknown quantity in Qarabag, with the Azerbaijani side looking to complete one of the biggest upsets in football over their Premier League opponents.

One man that will be looking to make sure that no such upset occurs is striker Alvaro Morata. The Spanish forward has been in good form for Chelsea so far netting three goals and registering two assists this season.

Most questioned whether the former Real Madrid striker, who made most of his appearances from the bench for the Spanish side, would be able to shoulder the burden of being Chelsea’s main attacking focal point following the ostracising of Diego Costa this summer.

His record in England so far proves that he has not needed an extended period to adjust to the league and, at just 24-years-old, he has the time to continue to improve. In fact, he will be looking at the Blues’ Champions League campaign as the perfect way to show just how good he is.

With this in mind, we have compiled three reasons as to why he will succeed in Europe with the Blues.

His ability in front of goal

It seems so obvious to say it, but his ability in front of goal will make him very successful in Europe for Chelsea. Fans of the London club have already been treated to his scoring exploits as he continues to shunt the absent Costa from memory. Indeed, it is not just goals in 6-0 hammerings that he is scoring though. Morata scored against Everton and Leicester, two sides that are tough to break down and have shown in recent seasons how good they can be defensively.

In conjunction with this is the fact he scored the opening goal against the Foxes. Opening the scoring is probably the most difficult goal to score for a striker as the opposition’s defence still has something to defend, and having not been breached yet, they are far more likely to be that much more energetic defensively. While Everton for all their struggles this season are still a strong defensive unit.

Morata himself is a classic European striker. Quick both on and off the ball, he blends deft touches with an ability to pass, hold the ball up and find space. In the box too he is outstanding. Whether with his head or either foot, he is a clinical finisher that excels at finding space in the box to exploit. While Costa will, of course, be a miss because of his goal output, Chelsea have found a younger and less hot-headed replacement to lead their line.

Prior experience in Europe

Morata doesn’t come to Chelsea as a green-eyed forward that will be overawed by the bright lights and the biggest European occasions. The striker has already made 35 appearances in the competition and that number is set to only increase this campaign too.

In those appearances, Morata has notched 11 goals, which is a good return for such a young forward. For Real Madrid, where he played second-fiddle to Karim Benzema and had to settle for appearances from the bench more often than not, he recorded four goals, while for Juventus, where he enjoyed more game time, he notched seven goals in 20 games.

The Spaniard also has experience of scoring in major games against the biggest opposition too, with his most memorable goal coming for Juventus against Real Madrid in the 2014/15 Champions League semi-final. Morata netted the decisive goal in a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu to send the Italians through 3-2 on aggregate.

There was a ‘no mercy’ feeling to his strike that night as he knocked out the club that he spent so much time with. It is exactly that kind of cold and calculated dead-eye finishing that Chelsea need.

Chelsea do not have another recognised striker

With Costa excluded from Chelsea’s Champions League squad, the burden of goals falls to Morata. Of course, Michy Batshuayi is a capable scorer, but Conte will not want to depend on the youngster to lead the line against Europe’s best as he is still growing as a player.

For Morata then, it seems as though he will get the chance he was rarely allowed at Madrid, to consistently lead the line and prove how good a striker he is. While some may question his goal ratios while with Juventus and Madrid, by way of contrast, Diego Costa was only able to find the net for Chelsea twice in 15 appearances despite being the undisputed number one striker for the Blues.

This means that, along with Costa’s superb ratio of eight goals in nine appearances for Atletico Madrid, he netted 10 goals in 24 games giving him a scoring ratio of one goal every 2.4 games, while Morata is scoring a goal every 3.18 games. When taking into account the fact that Morata played most of his minutes as a substitute for Madrid, it is not a ridiculous statement to say that his goal scoring ratio is likely to improve with increased game time.

As Eden Hazard returns to full fitness as well, more chances will be created with the Belgian an outstanding contributor last season. This means that Morata’s instincts as a striker will lead him to the right place at the right time, with Hazard invariably able to find space and create chances for his teammates that the Spaniard is good enough to capitalise on.

Morata’s time at Chelsea is only just beginning, but it seems as though the forward is enjoying life with the Blues. Under Conte’s tutelage, the Spaniard may become a forward that can replicate the achievements of some truly great strikers before him in both the Premier League and Europe.