Villian of the piece

For the English contingent which followed Chelsea to Azerbaijan this week for our Champions League clash against Qarabag, there was a sense of amusement when they read the Chelsea line-up in an Azeri-language match programme.

Due to the nuances of the Turkic language, many of the Chelsea player names are pronounced and spelt differently from what we are used to. So Thibaut Coutois becomes Tibo Kurtua, Gary Cahill is Hari Kehill, Cesc Fabregas is Sesk Fabreqas and Danny Drinkwater is Danni Drinkvater.

The most interesting alteration though was Willian, who becomes Villian, which (given the swapping of a couple of vowels) is a pretty apt description of the Brazilian for anybody who happened to be supporting the home team at Baku National Stadium.

On Wednesday, the Brazilian was the scourge of the Azerbaijani league champions as he played a part in all of our goals in an emphatic 4-0 win.

Having netted only one goal in our previous games this season, he added to his tally with two glorious efforts, finishing off a great move which involved his attacking partners Pedro and Eden Hazard to make it 2-0 before completing the scoring with an unstoppable drive from outside the box.

He also earned a couple of penalties, which were converted by Hazard and Fabregas, after the frustrated Qarabag defenders seemed to decide the best way to contain our number 22 was to attempt to exchange shirts with him well before the final whistle.

Thus, the home fans, who may have fancied their team’s chances of a surprise result against the Blues after drawing their previous two Champions League games against Atletico Madrid, saw their dreams dashed by a True Blue Villian.

But while they may have rued the contribution of the Brazilian to their heavy defeat, there was plenty to smile about for Chelsea fans as we saw him return to form after a difficult start to the season.

Willian was Chelsea’s Player of the Year just two seasons ago but after being a regular starter for the Blues in the first two months of the season, he has mainly been used as a substitute since the 2-1 defeat at Crystal Palace in the middle of October.

With Antonio Conte opting for a five-man midfield and a front pairing of Hazard and Alvaro Morata in our recent Premier League win against Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion, Willian has had to settle for a place on the bench. 

However, he has still appeared in every Chelsea game this season except for our Carabao Cup win against Nottingham Forest and his performance in Azerbaijan suggests he is still an invaluable contributor as we battle for honours on four different fronts.

With Chelsea’s place in the knockout rounds of the Champions League now confirmed, there will be plenty of opportunities for playing time for everyone in our squad as the season goes on. Having a player of Willian’s calibre ready to step in and perform like he did in Baku will certainly be a boost as we look to add to the bulging trophy cabinet at Stamford Bridge.