On a day of substantial Fantasy Premier League scores elsewhere, Eden Hazard‘s owners had to make do with a solitary assist from the Belgian as Chelsea ran out 3-1 winners at Stamford Bridge.
In the end, the 44% of FPL managers sitting on the Blues’ midfielder were perhaps content to get something other than the dreaded “one-pointer” as Hazard’s back injury restricted him to a half-hour appearance off the bench.
Marcos Alonso recorded his seventh assist of the season, meanwhile, and is now 19 points ahead of the second-highest-scoring defender in FPL (Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson).
We round up all the goals, assists, manager quotes and Fantasy talking points from the London derby that took place on Sunday afternoon.
Chelsea 3-1 Crystal Palace
- Goals: Alvaro Morata (£8.7m) x2, Pedro (£6.3m) | Andros Townsend (£5.7m)
- Assists: Pedro, Eden Hazard (£11.3m), Marcos Alonso (£7.0m) | James McArthur (£4.7m)
After the enjoyable exhibition of high-tempo football served up at the Etihad on Sunday afternoon, the overlapping fixture at Stamford Bridge was something of a let-down.
The match was indeed veering towards “tedious” territory for the first hour.
Up until the 60-minute mark, there had been two shots on target – both of which found the back of the net.
Alvaro Morata (£8.7m) opened the scoring on 31 minutes when controlling Pedro (£6.3m)’s half-volleyed ball across the box and firing past Wayne Hennessey before Andros Townsend (£5.7m) latched onto a James McArthur (£4.7m) through-ball not long after the interval to restore parity.
The only other action of note before Eden Hazard‘s (£11.3m) introduction on 64 minutes centred around Willian (£7.4m), who had a goal disallowed in the first half for the most marginal of offside calls and was then denied an assist when David Luiz (£5.5m) headed his compatriot’s in-swinging free-kick straight at Hennessey.
After the scintillating display at Burnley last weekend, Willian’s threat largely came from dead-ball situations on Sunday, but he still managed to create more chances in his hour-long showing than any other player on show at Stamford Bridge.
Willian’s owners would have found the manner of Chelsea’s second goal particularly galling as it was his replacement, Hazard, whose curling free-kick eventually found its way to Morata on the edge of the six-yard box, with the Spanish striker confidently lashing home from a tight angle.
Not for the first time this season, Hazard came off the bench to inject some life into a stale Chelsea performance.
The Gameweek 2 victory over Arsenal and the Europa League win over MOL Vidi come to mind, with Hazard’s introduction as a substitute on both occasions having a galvanising effect with the scores level and that same impact was felt again against the Eagles on Sunday.
Hazard’s motivational contribution didn’t translate into a particularly noteworthy performance from a Fantasy perspective, with the Belgian not registering a single shot on goal or penalty box touch in his all-too-brief time on the field.
The talismanic midfielder could so easily have emerged from the game with a second assist, however, when Morata wasted the chance of a hat-trick by chipping Hazard’s through-ball straight at Hennessey following a swift break.
His manager, Maurizio Sarri, had this to say about him after full-time:
Today was very important to have him on the bench. I spoke yesterday with the doctor and he said Hazard was doing better but, for me, is not able to play for 90 minutes.
So I asked for the bench, and he said I could try. But no more than 30 minutes. We were lucky. Immediately, the first minute, I think, he was able to change our match. But you know Hazard is Hazard. He’s able to do this very often.
There will no doubt be a fair share of Hazard’s owners who are tempted to bail on the Belgian after five points in three Gameweeks and premium alternatives Mohamed Salah (£13.0m) and Sadio Mane (£9.8m) enjoying a home fixture against Fulham in Gameweek 12.
Hazard has, however, another week to recover from the back injury that has plagued him over the last fortnight and Chelsea next face an Everton side without a clean sheet away from home this season and who have shipped two goals in four of their five Premier League fixtures on the road.
Chelsea’s reliance on Hazard is palpable at times and there is little doubt that if he is fit, he will start next Sunday – something that perhaps can’t be said for Liverpool’s attacking midfielders when Fulham come to town.
Pedro did his best to alleviate the burden that Hazard shoulders in this Chelsea side by recording a goal and assist, producing a sprightly performance and registering more penalty box touches than anyone on show at Stamford Bridge.
It seems a long time ago that Pedro was the in-vogue mid-price midfield option and in reality, there will be few Fantasy managers willing to revisit the Spanish winger despite his 12-point return.
With Hazard nearing full fitness, the “job share” with Willian – who has started 11 matches in a row in all competitions – is reason enough to give Pedro a wide berth for the foreseeable.
It was only a week ago that we were discussing the double-digit return of another mid-price Chelsea midfielder: Ross Barkley (£5.9m).
The former Everton midfielder was the most-bought player of Gameweek 11 but sadly for the 450,000+ FPL managers who drafted him into their sides, there was to be no repeat of his heroics at Turf Moor.
Barkley picked an inopportune time to deliver a below-par performance, not registering a single penalty box touch – as happened last week – and failing to record one key pass.
The Chelsea midfielder’s only effort on goal was a wild shot from distance that sailed high above the bar, while he was dispossessed on more occasions than any of his team-mates.
It was no surprise, therefore, to see Mateo Kovacic (£5.9m) replace him on 64 minutes, and the worry for Barkley and his 9.4% of FPL owners was that the Croatia international produced a tidy display on his introduction.
Just as we didn’t go overboard with the hype last weekend, however, it would be misguided to write Barkley off as disposable after one poor performance.
Palace did an excellent job of shackling Barkley throughout and it remains to be seen whether Everton have anything in their locker to do likewise in west London next weekend – if, of course, the England midfielder keeps his place over Kovacic. Who Sarri picks in midfield against BATE Borisov on Thursday evening should give us a big clue as to who will start against the Toffees in Gameweek 12.
Marcos Alonso (£7.0m) seems unlikely to lose many owners in that intervening period after the Spanish left-back recorded his seventh assist of the season for the low cross that led to Pedro’s goal.
That no FPL defender recorded more than seven assists in the whole of 2017/18 illustrates the value for money that Alonso is offering even at this premium price: no outfield player is currently returning more FPL points (11.1) per million spent.
Alonso’s assist potential has seemingly replaced his goal threat, with the Spaniard having again failed to record a single attempt on goal.
The Spanish left-back, who has attempted fewer shots than David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger (£6.0m) in the last seven Gameweeks, discussed his changing role at Chelsea ahead of Gameweek 11.
It was harder for me when I went to Italy and I started playing as a wing-back because that was new for me, but now it’s just going back to the position I played in before I moved to Italy.
That’s the position I’ve always played and I feel good there. Playing as a wing-back I used to be closer to the goal and I could help the team more in attack, now it’s different. I have to pick when I try to go up and focus on defending.
Maurizio and Antonio are both very good managers but it’s a completely different style. Now we try to have control of the game with possession, we try to find spaces to get closer to the goal and generate chances. I think we are all feeling very good playing this way and we have to make sure the results keep coming.
There is little wrong with Alonso’s creativity, though. Only three defenders, all of whom take set pieces for their respective clubs, have carved out more chances in 2018/19.
With Olivier Giroud (£7.8m) once again ruled out with muscle fatigue, Morata was used as the spearhead of the Chelsea attack again.
Morata’s performances have improved in the last month and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.9m) is the only FPL forward to have scored more goals than the former Juventus and Real Madrid striker in the last four Gameweeks.
Morata’s performance was a mix of predatory strike play and profligacy, and the forward seemed visibly dejected by his glaring stoppage-time miss.
Sarri admitted that Morata has a psychological barrier to overcome:
He’s a little bit fragile from the mental point of view. But he’s very young. I think he can improve, improve very fast.
Alvaro improved the last month. Improved for the confidence, improved for the personality, improved also from the technical point of view. Now he’s able to play more with the team, I think. But I think, also, that Alvaro has a very great physical and technical potential, so I think he can improve more.
Palace had started this game in a 4-4-2, with Wilfried Zaha (£6.8m) and Andros Townsend (£5.7m) leading the line and Max Meyer (£5.6m) brought in to play on the left of midfield.
That the Eagles only had two shots on target in the whole game – one of which was Townsend’s goal – underlined the problem Roy Hodgson’s side have been having all season in converting their positive build-up play into chances.
Zaha’s display was a fine example of that – the Ivorian caused plenty of problems for Chelsea’s backline with his trickery and no player on show registered more penalty box touches.
Zaha didn’t, however, register a single shot on goal in the entire 90 minutes.
The former Manchester United winger was frequently crowded out by blue shirts as he weaved into dangerous positions and opposing defences have clearly cottoned on to the fact that by stopping Zaha, they are cutting off Palace’s main source of goals from open play.
Zaha was even name-checked in Sarri’s post-match presser:
Zaha is very fast. Sometimes, I have to say that, especially in the first 20 minutes in the first half and the first 15 minutes of the second half, we were not in good positions under the ball line in the offensive phase. We were in trouble because we gave them, and especially him, spaces to attack. So it’s not easy to run with Zaha in a long race.
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho (Fabregas 80′), Barkley (Kovacic 64′); Willian (Hazard 64′), Morata, Pedro.
Crystal Palace XI (4-4-2): Hennessey; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, Van Aanholt; McArthur (Schlupp 80′), Kouyate, Milivojevic, Meyer (Ayew 71′); Townsend, Zaha.
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