After a year-long hiatus from the competition, Chelsea returned to the Champions League with an emphatic 6-0 victory against Qarabag FK. Conte was true to his word and put out a heavily rotated lineup, but there was no cause for alarm as the Blues ran out comfortable winners.
Here’s what we picked up from the game.
#1 Strength in Depth:
After a summer where discussion was mainly dominated by Chelsea’s inability to add to their squad, it was a pleasant surprise to see a strong starting eleven and a bench full of game-changers. Despite Drinkwater’s unavailability due to injury, Conte had the luxury of choosing from Hazard, Morata, Rudiger, Bakayoko, Moses and Luiz while watching their stand-ins do a commendable job on the pitch.
#2 Michy’s Mixed Fortunes:
Batshuayi plodded and pondered on the pitch for about 75 minutes, as his first touch let him down on more than one occasion and he barely made the Qarabag ‘keeper break a sweat. Perhaps he was expecting to be subbed after an ineffectual display, so when Conte opted not to bring on Morata it gave him a new lease of life. A little show of faith from the manager was rewarded with two late goals.
#3 Competition for Places:
Willy Caballero might just be indulging in a bit of banter with Moses on the bench as Zappacosta’s long-ranger flew into the net, but the Argentinian goalkeeper may have a point. Zappacosta put in a solid performance defensively as well as offensively, set up a goal for Batshuayi and scored a cracker. Conte might not ditch Moses right away, but the Nigerian now has a real contender for his spot.
#4 Defensive Solidity:
Andreas Christensen started his first Champions League match for Chelsea and put in a solid, if unspectacular shift next to Cahill and Azpilicueta. The young Dane was calm and composed in the face of sporadic Qarabag attacks, even managing to trap a long ball in his own box and kick it over his head in one move before clearing it safely. Azpilicueta also managed to score a rare header, having been given the freedom of the entire Qarabag penalty area. Not bad.
#5 Hazard Warning:
Eden Hazard is fit again. Rejoice! The Belgian maestro came off the bench and showed a couple of slick moves, took on a few defenders and went on a slaloming run more than once. He’s slowly getting back to his old self and should be ready to start against Arsenal. The next few Chelsea lineups will be very interesting.
And so, we start our Champions League campaign on a high note. Of course, tougher tests await if we are to progress in the competition, but scoring six goals is great for the goal difference, especially since the other two teams in the group – Atletico Madrid and Roma – played out a 0-0 draw. Ah, it’s good to be back.