Eden Hazard is one of the three best players in the world – Álvaro Morata

Álvaro Morata has expressed his delight at playing alongside Eden Hazard, describing the Belgian as “one of the three best players in the world”, after maintaining his own eye-catching start to life at Chelsea with a seventh goal in as many games in the hugely impressive victory over Atlético Madrid.

The Spain forward was subjected to constant abuse from the stands on Wednesday night as he returned to Madrid, where he had previously enjoyed two spells at Real, but silenced the home support with Chelsea’s equaliser on the hour-mark. His header was guided home from Hazard’s pinpoint cross with the players, who had only played alongside each other for 49 minutes previously, enjoying an instant understanding out on the pitch.

The game at the Wanda Metropolitano was only Hazard’s second start of the season, with Chelsea having treated his recovery from ankle surgery over the summer with understandable caution. “But it’s not difficult playing with this kind of player,” said Morata. “He’s one of the best three players in the world, and it’s easy for me to play with him.

“My own start at this club does not seem real. In the first official match I made a mistake [missing a penalty in the shoot-out as Chelsea lost to Arsenal in the Community Shield] and I suffered for a few days. People didn’t see the situation, but I grew up, showed my strength of character and, now, things are OK. I hope to continue like this.”

Chelsea spent an initial £57m on Morata over the summer, a club record fee, and his contribution has been key to date. The striker had struggled to impose himself against Arsenal’s stubborn defence in a Premier League game at Stamford Bridge earlier this month but, in his other outings, he has excelled. There have been headed goals against Burnley, Everton, Leicester City and now Atlético, and a hat-trick plundered at Stoke, with the forward intent upon repaying Antonio Conte’s faith in his ability.

“I came to Chelsea because one club and one coach believed in me,” he said, reflecting on the frustration at life as a relative fringe player with Real and Juventus in previous seasons. “Now I have all of these things and I’m very happy. Playing in the Premier League is a difficult challenge. It’s the most competitive league in the world, it’s very physical, and it’s the league with the most teams who can win the title. Strong teams. We’re fighting for the Premier League, too, with another important match on Saturday.”

That fixture, against the league leaders Manchester City, will provide another opportunity to gauge Chelsea’s strength in depth with Conte having already made clear his exasperation that the fixture had not been scheduled on Sunday, rather than Saturday teatime, to allow his players more time to recover from their exertions in Spain. The win at Atlético, in arguably the most daunting tie of the group, served to demonstrate the team’s underlying qualities with the visitors dominant and deserving of Michy Batshuayi’s winner deep into stoppage time at the end.

No English side had ever previously won at Atlético. “It was a very important test for us,” added Morata. “It’s not easy to win in Madrid, against Atlético Madrid. This test means we are ready to fight. We’re a very good team, and we go always with the same desire to fight, always to take the ball very fast for our possession. Now we have seen the Chelsea level [in comparison to] all the European teams.”


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