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Hazard warning: Forward could be key to Schalke tie

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Eden Hazard had a slow start to the season. The Belgian didn't score or get an assist in his first six appearances, but has netted three now in his last two, as well as creating a host of chances for his team-mates in the process.

Against Cardiff at the weekend, Hazard was in menacing form, scoring two goals and assisting one other as well as providing a constant threat down the left-hand side.

The Belgian started the game from the left, playing as an inverted attacking midfielder, as he often does. Not only was he a goal threat, scoring two from a total of three attempts on goal, but he was also a very direct option. Hazard completed four out of an attempted five take-ons in this tie, proving a very difficult player to shackle for Cardiff.

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Hazard's take-ons v Cardiff

Typically Hazard would come in off the left-hand side and look to create or take a shot. His second goal actually came from a direct run into the box down the left flank.

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Eden Hazard Shots v Cardiff

The former Lille midfielder also created five chances for his team-mates from similar positions.

This highlights two points. Firstly, this shows how Hazard continuously looks to exploit the same pockets of space to hurt the opposition. It is clear he wants to cut in and use the space just outside the box. Furthermore, although Hazard was immensely successful at exploiting this area against Cardiff, perhaps the predictability in his game is one of the reasons why he has struggled at times this season - as the opposition know where exactly he wants to go with the ball.

But one should note that Hazard's electrifying ability to beat his man makes him so hard to contain, as he is comfortable with either foot and has the flair in his play to confuse the opposition. Perhaps this was most evident against Cardiff on Saturday.

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Hazard's key passes v Cardiff

The implications of Hazard finally hitting good form this year are that he could have a big role to play in Chelsea's critical Champions League away tie to Schalke on Tuesday. Last season he was a key performer in the tournament, but he did not have the best game against Basel on the first matchday. Andre Schurrle came in for him and was brilliant against Steaua, but Hazard has now staked a real claim to a first team berth away in Germany.

Hazard will be one of Chelsea's major goal threats in this fixture, as well as one of the club's foremost creative outlets. As we can see above he will do most of his work coming inside off the left-hand side, meaning that whoever plays right-back for Schalke will have to be alive to the task of marking a player who, on his day, can be unplayable.

From Squawka.com - team and player football stats

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