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Eden Hazard v Jan Vertonghen; The key battle when Chelsea face Tottenham
Last Updated: 01/04/18 3:38pm
Will Eden Hazard inspire Chelsea's attack or will Jan Vertonghen help Tottenham's defence prevail? We assess this weekend's key battle...
Chelsea host Tottenham this Sunday, live on Sky Sports, in a crucial game in the race for a top-four spot.
Chelsea, five points adrift of their fourth-placed London rivals, will be relying on Belgian Eden Hazard to break down a Tottenham defence marshalled by international colleague, Jan Vertonghen.
Chelsea, minus Hazard, won August's reverse fixture, despite seeing much of the play dictated by their opponents. Antonio Conte's side recorded just 28 per cent of the game's successful passes and scored with both shots on target, while Tottenham failed to score with any of their six.
Much of those attacking limitations were linked to Hazard's absence, and his availability will surely lead to his side having a better platform in this game.
The Belgium attacker has consistently been one of the Premier League's most creative threats throughout his career; indeed, since his return this season, no player has created more chances from open play, and only Mesut Ozil has done so at a faster rate.
Most chances created from open play - PL since Sept 30 (+1000 mins)
|Player||Chances created||Chances/per 90mins|
|Kevin De Bruyne||57||2.5|
Hazard's creativity stems from his exceptional ability in one-on-one situations. He's beaten a defender on 128 occasions this season. That's at least 41 times (or 47 per cent) more than any other player this season.
His success-rate is also significantly higher than every prominent dribbler. While others beat an opponent with one-in-two attempts, Hazard does so with over 75 per cent of his.
Most successful dribbles - (Premier League 2017/18, +1400mins)
|Player||Total dribbles||Dribbles per 90mins||Success %|
Despite Chelsea's overall form wavering in 2018, Hazard's individual production has actually risen. He's created more chances than any other Premier League player this calendar year, and at a far higher rate, while he's also dribbling past more players and scoring more.
The fact this has not coincided with an upturn in his club's form points to a widespread slump from some of his team-mates, or that his side has become a little one dimensional and overly reliant on Hazard - which further stats suggest.
No Premier League side has relied on creativity from one source as much as Chelsea have from Hazard this year.
Percentage of team's chances created (Premier League in 2018)
|Player||Club||Percentage of team's chances|
|Kevin De Bruyne||Man City||24.1%|
His ability is unquestioned, but at least Tottenham know any way they can suppress the Belgium attacker should restrict Chelsea more than any other club at present - a task for Vertonghen and his defensive peers.
Just as Hazard has impressed in 2018, so too has Tottenham's defence, which has been integral to their current 12-match unbeaten run.
Mauricio Pochettino's side have conceded five goals this calendar year, fewer than any other Premier League side, including just one goal in the last six hours on the pitch, with Vertonghen integral to this.
After a title-derailing performance in 2015/16, Tottenham were successful at reducing Hazard's influence against them last season, restricting him to just a single shot on target, and far fewer touches in the penalty area. His inability to dribble past as many defenders also coincided with fewer chances created.
Hazard v Tottenham
|V Tottenham||Hazard - PL 2016/17||V other top six sides|
|1.1||Chances created per 90mins||1.8|
|2.2||Successful dribbles per 90mins||4.4|
|0.5||Shots on target per 90mins||1.1|
|2.7||Touches in opp. box per 90mins||4.5|
Vertonghen, who spent the past week training with Hazard for his national side, will have played a prominent role in this. The central defender is one of the hardest players to dribble past at Spurs, and indeed in the Premier League, beaten on just 10 occasions this season - fewer than any of the division's top 69 tacklers.
He also has the highest challenge success-rate of any player to record 50+ tackles this season, making him the ideal opponent to nullify Hazard's main strength.
Tottenham defenders - Premier League 2017/18 (+1000mins)
Conte may attempt to limit their exchanges and start his key man from the left, taking on defenders more susceptible to his dribbling. In that case, Vertonghen's role would become more about reading Hazard's final ball, and intercepting or clearing the danger - two categories in which he also leads the way for Tottenham this season, and did so in each fixture against Chelsea and Hazard in last.
Jan Vertonghen has an 84.1 per cent tackle success rate. That's the best among Premier League players to have made at least 50 tackles this season.
Both clubs have been trending in opposite directions since the turn of the year, with Tottenham top of that form table, and Chelsea down in 12th.
Despite never winning in 25 previous Premier League visits to Stamford Bridge - the worst run of its kind in Premier League history - Tottenham have the defence to keep Hazard on the periphery of Sunday's action, and gain revenge for August's defeat.
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