Hazard deserves Messi and Ronaldo comparison, insists former Chelsea captain Terry

Former Chelsea captain John Terry believes Eden Hazard still has room for improvement but merits being ranked alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

The 27-year-old has enjoyed a stellar start to the new campaign, scoring five goals in six appearances for Maurizio Sarri’s Blues.

Hazard’s impressive run of form follows him winning the Silver Ball award at the World Cup as Belgium finished third in Russia.

To further underline his recent form, the Chelsea star was named in the FIFPro team of the year ahead of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah

But the former Lille winger continues to divide opinion having been unable to show the same consistency as Ronaldo or Messi, although Terry feels he deserves to be ranked among the illustrious duo.

“A couple of people recently are coming out and saying he’s not kind of the finished article,” the ex-England skipper, who played with Hazard for five years at Stamford Bridge, told AS .

“But believe me he really is and he’s up there with Messi and Ronaldo without a shadow of a doubt.

“I’ve seen him day in, day out for the last five/six years and he’s a top, top player and he will only get better as well.”

Sarri may have only arrived at Chelsea in the summer after replacing Antonio Conte but he is already convinced Hazard is the best player in Europe.

“I thought that Hazard was one of the best players in Europe but now I change my mind,”  he said after Hazard scored a hat-trick in the 4-1 win over Cardiff City earlier this month.

“Maybe he is the best and he can improve more.”

Hazard is likely to have another chance to impress as Chelsea begin their Carabao Cup campaign against Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday.

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VIDEO: Pogba & Mourinho clash in frosty Man Utd training ground meeting

Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho endured a frosty meeting in Manchester United training on Wednesday.

The pair have repeatedly clashed this season, and the Portuguese confirmed, after the club’s defeat on penalties to Derby County in the Carabao Cup, that Pogba had been stripped of the vice-captaincy.

The Frenchman laid on a brilliant assist for Fred during United’s 1-1 draw with Wolves at the weekend, but later lost the ball in the build-up to Joao Moutinho’s equaliser.

Pogba later laid into his side’s playing style, maintaining that he and his team-mates should “attack, attack, attack” when playing at Old Trafford.

Mourinho’s response, as per reports on Tuesday, was to launch a tirade at Pogba on the training ground in front of the rest of the first-team squad during which he told the Frenchman that he will never captain United again under his watch.

And the pair were filmed meeting on Wednesday in the wake of the club’s humiliating cup exit to Frank Lampard’s Championship club Derby.

In a clip aired by Sky Sports News, Pogba is shown jogging on to the field and shaking hands with first-team coach Michael Carrick, Mourinho and another member of staff, at which point the manager appeared to make a comment.

 

The exchange left Pogba with a quizzical expression and he proceeded to walk past his coach offering further observations.

Mourinho made Pogba the most expensive player in history when he signed him from Juventus for £89.3 million ($117.5m) in 2016, but his form over two completed seasons since returning to Old Trafford has been patchy.

Pogba performed impressively as France won the World Cup this year, scoring in the 4-2 final win over Croatia, but Mourinho forewent a pre-season opportunity to praise his player and pointedly questioned his capacity to focus over the course of a whole campaign.

It was therefore a surprise when Pogba was handed the captain’s armband for the opening-weekend 2-1 win over Leicester City as a stand-in for regular skipper Antonio Valencia. After converting a penalty, the midfielder told reporters he could not freely discuss his feelings on his situation at United for fear of being fined.

Barcelona were linked with a move for the player, who claimed his attitude was not right during United’s subsequent 3-2 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion.

A brace in the 3-0 Champions League win over Young Boys last week took Pogba to four goals and two assists in all competitions for United this season, but it remains to be seen if he will play against West Ham this weekend.

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How Real Madrid & Lopetegui hope to be one step ahead of Sevilla

Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui has already got a head start over Sevilla boss Pablo Machin ahead of their clash on Wednesday night.

Lopetegui will hope he knows exactly what he is coming up against at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan as Machin disclosed one of his tactics to his opposite number in a meeting seven months ago.

The former Spain boss was in preparation mode heading into the World Cup and wanted to know how to counter the three-at-the-back system which teams such as eventual semi-finalists Belgium and England would be using at the tournament.

He enlisted help from Machin, who had been using three defenders to great effect at Girona last season as he led them to an eventual 10th-place finish in La Liga.

Lopetegui attended the Liga fixture between Girona and Celta Vigo in February, and took the opportunity to meet up with Machin.

In addition to gaining insight on how to play against teams operating with three at the back, Lopetegui also sought to understand its implementation for his own purposes. It is why he named eight defenders in his squad for the World Cup before he was sacked on the eve of Spain’s opening game following the announcement of his appointment as Madrid coach.

Lopetegui will now be able to use his knowledge of the tactic and utilise the counter measures he was taught in the meeting with Machin, potentially giving Los Blancos a distinct advantage heading into the Sevilla game.

Machin, who took over at Sevilla in the summer, realises that it may now be a battle to get the better of a man who knows some of his secrets.

“Who would have said that, in the following season, we would be facing each other, with me at Sevilla and he at Madrid,” said Machin.

“I think we both would have signed up to it (if Machin and Lopetegui had been offered the chance to coach Sevilla and Madrid, respectively).

“I gave my point of view on this system, but ideas and theories are one thing, reality is another.”

However, Machin has faith in his squad, adding it is still down to the players to win or lose the game.

“We can’t forget that the protagonists are the players and their qualities are what make you win or lose,” he added. “Coaches help, but those who score goals or save them are key.”

It would come as a massive shock if Machin ditched his system for the Madrid game, but it remains to be seen how well Lopetegui took notes on how to break down this Sevilla side who rarely take a beating at home.

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Liverpool v Chelsea Betting: Sturridge to come back to haunt his former club

With both managers expected to rotate their teams ahead of this weekend’s big Premier League encounter, Liverpool and Chelsea’s squad players will be aiming to impress in Wednesday’s EFL Cup clash.

Having already showed his worth with the opening goal against Paris Saint-Germain this season, Daniel Sturridge is a strong 5/1 (6.00) bet to underline his quality once again by opening the scoring against his former club.

The 29-year-old has actually scored two goals from just over 90 minutes of football this campaign, so looks like decent value at 7/5 (2.40) anytime odds in a match he should start.

Alvaro Morata Chelsea 2018-19

Another man looking to come back to haunt his old side, Dominic Solanke is priced at 7/4 (2.75) to strike anytime in what could be his first appearance of the campaign.

Highly impressive in his first start for Jurgen Klopp’s side despite being taken off at half-time versus Southampton, Xherdan Shaqiri can be backed at 15/8 (2.88) to follow that up by opening his account for the team he joined in the summer.

At the other end of the pitch, Alvaro Morata will be determined to stake his claim for a recall to Maurizio Sarri’s team after being usurped in the starting line-up by Olivier Giroud recently.

Considering his quality, the Spain international looks favourably priced at 6/1 (7.00) to open the scoring, not to mention 7/4 (2.75) anytime odds.

Liverpool Chelsea EFL Cup scorers graphic

Having put in a number of eye-catching performances in pre-season, youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi is available at 13/5 (3.60) to grab his first goal for the senior side.

Although set to give a number of squad players a run-out, the Blues’ assistant manager Gianfranco Zola has confirmed that star man Eden Hazard will be part of the travelling squad on Merseyside.

With five goals to his name in just four starts so far this campaign, the mercurial Belgian is a tempting 8/5 (2.60) anytime bet considering he has scored five times against the Reds in the past.

Odds correct at the time of writing. Please gamble responsibly.

Betting Banner - Best BetSturridge to score anytime for a 1.5pt stake at 7/5 (2.40) with bet365

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Clasico conspiracy? The truth on whether Barcelona or Real Madrid receive more red cards

Clement Lenglet’s dismissal for an alleged elbow on Pere Pons in Barcelona’s Liga draw with Girona on Sunday caused all sorts of controversy.

Even Pons was surprised by referee Gil Manzano’s VAR-assisted decision to dismiss Lenglet, with the midfielder admitting afterwards that he thought that he had fouled the French defender.

“I took a blow but when I got up, I apologised to Lenglet and shook his hand because I thought it was my fault,” he confessed.

As bemused Barca boss Ernesto Valverde pointed out afterwards, “It’s the first time that the player who is sent off receives an apology from his rival for fouling him!” 

It was a significant call, too, as Barcelona were leading through a Lionel Messi goal at the time but were ultimately indebted to Gerard Pique’s second-half equaliser for allowing them to salvage a 2-2 draw.

However, the dropped points allowed title rivals Real Madrid to draw level with the Blaugrana at the summit of the Liga standings and that development rather predictably reignited the ongoing debate among their respective fans about preferential treatment from referees.

Indeed, it was quickly pointed out that Manzano has now sent off five Barcelona players in the past three years. 

Clement Lenglet red card Barcelona Girona

However, it would be difficult for the Catalans to claim that they are being victimised by match officials in general. 

Since Opta began recording data for red cards in La Liga in 2012, Barca have only had 12 players dismissed. To put that in context, Malaga and Valencia top the table with a whopping 40 reds apiece.

Furthermore, Real have racked up 22 reds over the past six years, suggesting that referees aren’t afraid to give Madrid players their marching orders.

However, while Blancos fans might be tempted to use the fact that their club has had 10 more players sent off than their Catalan counterparts since 2012-13, it is worth pointing out that any allegations of refereeing bias against them would be undermined by the role of Sergio Ramos in distorting the numbers.

The most red-carded player in Liga history has been dismissed seven times since 2012 alone, meaning he accounts for just under one-third of Real’s reds during this timeframe (32 per cent). 

In addition, there have been seven Clasico reds in the past six years (five for Real; two for Barca), and Ramos accounts for three of them!

In short, Barca can hardly argue that they are the victims of some sort of refereeing conspiracy in light of how few reds they actually receive, while Real cannot feel hard done by, given the presence of the notoriously temperamental Sergio Ramos in their side.

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