Chelsea manager Antonio Conte expects the upcoming Premier League visit of Arsenal to come too soon for winger Eden Hazard despite the Belgium international making his second cameo appearance in a row in the Champions League win over Qarabag. Hazard played 33 minutes as the Blues romped to a 6-0 success over the Azerbaijan champions, who were playing their first ever game in Europe's premier club competition.
Goals from Pedro, full debutant Davide Zappacosta, Cesar Azpilicueta, Tiemoue Bakaoyoko and Michy Batshuayi - who netted a late double - gave the 2012 winners a victorious start on their return to continental competition. The fourth win in a row comes five days ahead of the visit of the Gunners in one of the defining top flight fixtures of any campaign.
Conte was able to rest Alvaro Morata and David Luiz for the game, while Hazard earned a half-an-hour run-out in his recovery from ankle surgery. The ex-Lille playmaker played 12 minutes on his comeback against Leicester City on Saturday [9 September] yet Conte has hinted that he will have to settle for place on the Chelsea bench this weekend.
"It is very early," the Italian told reporters, after Chelsea's joint-heaviest Champions League win. "I think Eden we must have a bit of patience with him and to try and give him the possibility to recover well, to be totally fit and I think this is the right process for him.
"Don't forget in the team there are two players like Pedro and Willian and they play very well. We must be pleased to see him in the team. Now we must have calm and to do the best for the play and the team. Because we risk injury. This is the right way, this process is right for him."
Morata's omission from the start allow Batshuayi a chance to lead the attack; an opportunity he took with both hands as he scored twice in the second half. Conte was impressed with many of his squad players, who he now trusts to put pressure on his current first team, and feels his side have a huge physical advantage over weekend opponents Arsenal who face FC Colonge in the Europa League on Thursday [14 September]
"Today I wanted to give an opportunity to Michy," Conte added. "And also to [Andreas] Christiansen. To play in the Champions League it means that the coach trusts you. My message tonight was this: that I trust all my players not all with words but with facts.
"First game in the Champions League I decide to pay with to start with rotation also to start the process to improve these players. If we try to play with only 13 players like last season we are crazy. Instead, we have to improve these players and increase good competition with them and that is very important."
Meanwhile, Chelsea once again refused to respond to speculation regarding Diego Costa's future after the Spain international reportedly flew to the Spanish capital to complete his return to Atletico Madrid. The Brazilian-born forward has been linked with a £40m return to the La Liga side since being made surplus to requirements by Conte but with the transfer window having closed he remains a Chelsea player.