HAZARD: TAKING IT IN STRIDE

Posted on: Fri 21 Sep 2012

When Eden Hazard kicks off against Stoke tomorrow afternoon if selected, he will begin his second month of Barclays Premier League football.

With four league matches under his belt, including an away game up north and a hotly-contested London derby, he has been given a good taste of what our domestic competition is all about.

It is common for a player coming fresh to England to require a period of acclimatisation to what is undoubtedly a high-tempo and fiercely competitive style of football, but Hazard's instant impact clearly shows he doesn't. Unlike others, he is not surprised by what he finds here either.

'Being on the pitch with the players is exactly the same, it doesn't matter if you are in England or in France or anywhere else,' Hazard says.

'The one thing that I have noticed is the stadiums and the crowds are different in England, but once you are actually on the pitch it makes no difference what country it is.'

To back up the belief that he has been able to bring his natural game across the channel, the run of penalty incidents involving Hazard continued on Wednesday night against Juventus.

Having been fouled for successfully converted spot-kicks against Wigan, Reading and Newcastle, there were very strong claims not granted at QPR and against the Italians.

'It was a penalty,' said Roberto Di Matteo after the Champions League game. 'He got pushed and there was contact as well and it was the second game in a row that the referee seemed to not see it.'

Hazard's ability to test defenders to the limit in one-on-one situations is nothing new.

'I won six penalties last year. I was the most fouled player,' he points out.

'It's always difficult for the defender to defend in the box, so I like to dribble into the area. I try to encourage them with my dribbling to make a tackle. Because that is difficult it causes them to give away a penalty.'

This being football, it is of course not just about an individual, and Hazard has been helped by some eye-catching link-up play with his team-mates at Chelsea, Juan Mata especially, but with others too including John Mikel Obi who supplied the pass for the penalty-incident against Juventus.

Hazard acknowledges similarities with how he played with Joe Cole at Lille last season.

'They are players who are comfortable with the ball at their feet,' he says. 'With players of that quality it is easy to get an understanding with them. Juan and Oscar and people like that are very intelligent players so they know when to find the best pass and the best solution. It is easy to play with players like that.'