Assessing Who Won the Battle of the False 9’s Between Hazard and Sterling in Chelsea’s Win Over City

Thanks to the abhorrent behaviour of one Chelsea fan, it’s sadly not the thrilling football that has dominated the post-match coverage of the Blues 2-0 win over Manchester City on Saturday. 

Video footage from the match appeared to show Raheem Sterling being racially abused by a Blues supporter, and has served as a timely reminder of the progress which still needs to be made in stamping racism out of football for good.

In spite of the unsavoury happening on Saturday – ?an event which Sterling has dealt with admirably – there were a number of positive talking points to focus on; in particular, the much-anticipated match-up between the England international and ?Chelsea talisman Eden Hazard offered fans and neutrals alike the chance to determine which player is the more deadly.

With Sergio Agüero injured, Pep Guardiola offered up a real surprise on his team sheet, with ?Sterling played upfront while backup striker Gabriel Jesus remained on the bench. Similarly, Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri opted to play Hazard up-top, with Olivier Giroud having to settle for a seat on the sidelines.

Chelsea FC v Manchester City - Premier League

In truth, ?City should have been three or four goals up within the first quarter of the match. Chelsea looked completely at sea, with Guardiola’s confident side of attacking stars running rings around the home side. Arguably, the best chance of this opening period fell to Sterling, who missed a gilt-edged opportunity to give his side the lead.

Despite spurning this glorious opening, Sterling was City’s star performer against the Blues. The 24-year-old’s stats speak for themselves; he made two key passes, nine dribbles (seven more than any of his teammates) and comprehensively tore Chelsea’s defence apart on more than one occasion.

Chelsea FC v Manchester City - Premier League

Hazard, who has often failed to turn up for Chelsea on the big occasions, was in stellar form against the Citizens on Saturday – providing a pinpoint assist for N’Golo Kanté’s opener, before whipping a top class corner onto David Luiz’s trademark barnet for his side’s second goal of the afternoon.

The Belgium international has now provided four assists in his last four matches, and is beginning to show signs of recapturing the scintillating form with which he kicked off the current campaign. Chelsea fans would do well to enjoy the 27-year-old while they can, as he seems destined to leave Stamford Bridge for a big money move abroad next summer.

Arguably, the real difference between the players is that Hazard is carrying his team, while Sterling’s importance to City is more understated. Guardiola’s squad is vastly superior to Chelsea’s, with a clear gulf in talent between the two starting line-ups. 

Hazard was the focal point of Chelsea’s attack, while City were able to spread the threat between the interchanging Sterling, Leroy Sané and Riyad Mahrez.

It’s hard to really make a true assessment of which player is better from this match alone; while a cursory glance at Sterling’s ‘heat map’ shows he ended up spending more time on the wing than down the middle, neither player was in their natural position. On the day, it was Hazard who proved more clinical, hauling his side to an unprecedented victory with two big assists.

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Making a snap judgement, Hazard, for now, appears to be the better player of the two. While both players managed to adapt well to their sides’ change of tactics, it was the Belgian who provided the goods for his side, with Sterling being left to rue missing his golden opportunity. Had City taken the lead, the likelihood is that they would have gone on to walk the game.

However, it would be fair to say Hazard has reached the limits of his potential, while Sterling looks to still be on the rise. For the time being then, the Blues man looks to be the superior player. But with his destiny looking ever more likely to be in La Liga, it would be fair to suggest that it may be Sterling who, in the end, develops the more impressive Premier League legacy.


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