Hazard and Torres thrive as Chelsea head to QPR
Preview: QPR v Chelsea
Life after Didier Drogba was always going to present a challenge for Chelsea, and in true Roman Abramovich style, the answer has been to spend – more than �60 million to be precise.
Drogba was a phenomenon at Stamford Bridge, scoring more than 100 goals in almost 230 appearances over eight years.
He largely over-shadowed the arrival of �50m Fernando Torres, but with Drogba having departed to Shanghai Shenhua, now must be Torres’s time to shine.
Torres has responded by scoring three times so far this season, following a goal against Manchester City in the Community Shield with strikes at home to Reading and Newcastle United.
Manager Roberto di Matteo is leaving nothing to chance, however, and should the Spaniard struggle this season as he has done since his arrival from Liverpool in 2011, Chelsea have plenty of other attacking options.
Di Matteo signed Eden Hazard from Lille for �32m, Marko Marin from Werder Bremen for �7m, and Oscar from Internacional for �20m. Those options were increased on transfer deadline day, as Wigan’s Victor Moses joined for �9m.
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While Torres and Daniel Sturridge are Chelsea’s only recognised strikers in a 4-3-3 system, Di Matteo can call upon plenty of supporting firepower.
Hazard has made an instant impact, playing in the space behind lone striker Torres. The Belgian star scored in the Blues’ most recent league game, a 2-0 win over Newcastle which kept them at the top of the table.
Chelsea’s weakness may well come in central midfield, where Frank Lampard and John Mikel Obi are the only defensive options, following the �8m sale of Raul Meireles to Fenerbahce. Michael Essien has also departed on loan to Real Madrid.
Lampard has made a strong start to the season, however, and remains the driving force for Di Matteo’s side at the age of 34.
The new season may not yet be a month old, but Chelsea have begun in a fashion that suggests they are serious contenders for the Premier League title.
Plenty has changed since these sides met at Loftus Road last season, a match settled by Heidar Helguson’s first-half penalty.
Helguson has since departed QPR, and should Anton Ferdinand fail to recover from injury in time, Rangers’ starting line-up could feature not a single player from last season’s match.
Rs boss Mark Hughes will be hoping his team finally comes together, or table-topping Chelsea will march away with the points.
Prediction: QPR 1 Chelsea 2