CHELSEA have had the footballer of the year in their ranks twice in the past three seasons.
N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard underlining that at Stamford Bridge there is a squad of supreme ability which belongs alongside the best in Europe.
Throw in Alvaro Morata who cannot miss the goal at present and we are looking at a serious mob of players capable of retaining the Premier League title.
A clearer picture of that will emerge today when Chelsea are at home to Manchester City in the biggest game of our season so far. The first real showdown between two genuine rivals.
Chelsea’s hugely impressive comeback victory at Atletico Madrid on Wednesday surely means they have the qualities to take on and beat anyone?
That is something else which will be partially explained around 7.15pm on Saturday when the final whistle blows on their hugely-anticipated match against current league leaders City.
Chelsea are good but right here, right now there is another question to be asked of them and that is when everyone is fit and well, despite their fantastic form do they actually possess a player who would add to what is quite simply breathtaking stuff up at Manchester City?
Hazard has been described as one of the three best players in the world by his new team-mate Alvaro Morata, who reaped the benefit of the little Belgian’s brilliant cross to score in Madrid on Wednesday.
It’s a fair debate because when Hazard ticks, Chelsea purr and he has for a long time been placed just a hair’s breadth below Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in terms of natural talent.
But there is nothing he can do which Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Bernado Silva cannot at the moment.
⚽ Ian Wright’s Premier League Tips ⚽
Former striker Ian Wright selects his top tips for Saturday’s action.
“Romelu Lukaku has started exactly as you’d want a £75m signing to start.
“Not only has he scored a load of goals but he’s also silenced those questioning his link-up play and the first touch.
“He’s the only player in my mind when it comes to the first goalscorer market – and I fancy United to get loads againsrt Crystal Palace.”
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De Bruyne particularly is in the form of his life, he even admitted it this week which is unusual for Hazard’s modest international stablemate.
Cesc Fabregas, the raw Tiemoue Bakayoko, fast-paced Willian and Pedro, even with his eye for a spectacular goal – unlikely any of them would get a first team shirt at the Etihad.
There is no argument up front either. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus win that one hands down. Looks at the goals for tally in the Premier League table and there’s your answer.
Admittedly it is not a fair fight because Morata tends to lead the line alone as the spearpoint of a front three – but the redeployment of Hazard just behind him coming in from the left is interesting.
City don’t even need a goalkeeper at the moment let’s face it, so Thibaut Courtois can stay where he is.
No, the only place where City boss Pep Guardiola might cast an envious eye at this weekend’s rivals Chelsea is in the unfashionable engine room of the team.
N’Golo Kante and his tireless running – would you rather him than Fernandinho or Ilkay Gundogan, City fans? That’s a possibility.
But it’s at the back where we unearth the main weapon in Chelsea boss Antonio Conte’s armoury. Often overlooked and always understated, Cesar Azpilicueta would stroll into City’s team if the extreme fitness fanatic was not always running everywhere.
Every minute of every game last season in a title-winning team says a lot about ‘Azpi’.
The fact that Guardiola tried to sign Jonny Evans from West Brom in the summer transfer window underlines their need for a dependable man who shuns headlines, rolls up his shirt and is eager to get on with the dirty job of stopping a formidable attack like City’s.
Azpilicueta arrived at Chelsea as a right-back, played immediately at left-back to dig his club out of a fix and is now the right-sided centre-half of a three-man defence.
His assured nature means he is quite often called on to cover for the talented but erratic David Luiz and his pace and energy make him a completely different and more valuable asset than his own captain Gary Cahill at the back.
City supporters should imagine him alongside John Stones, another gifted but sometimes wobbly centre-half who would benefit from having Azpilicueta on his right shoulder.
Guardiola must also be musing about the day he has to replace his talisman Vincent Kompany. Injuries in particular may be bringing that dilemma more quickly to the surface.
If there is one player Guardiola – a former defender himself – should go for it is Chelsea’s Cesar.