Paul Merson has claimed that Chelsea aren’t the same team without Eden Hazard.
The defending Premier League champions started the season without the Belgium international after Hazard broke his right ankle on international duty at the end of the 2016-17 season.
Chelsea lost to Burnley, Crystal Palace and Manchester City in the opening two months of the Premier League campaign as Antonio Conte slowly eased Hazard back into the first-team.
The 26-year-old attacker scored his first Premier League goal of the current campaign in a 1-0 win over Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium at the end of October.
Hazard has been on a fine run of form in recent weeks thanks to six goals and three assists in their last nine games in all competitions ahead of the visit of Newcastle United on Saturday evening.
Former Arsenal midfielder Merson believes Chelsea simply aren’t the same team when Hazard is missing from Conte’s starting XI.
“Eden Hazard was rested for that one, he’ll be back here,” Merson told Sky Sports. “Chelsea aren’t the same team without him.”
Hazard scored 16 goals in the Premier League last season to help Conte’s side win the title with two games to spare in the Italian’s first campaign in charge.
The Belgian forward netted 14 times in 38 games in the Premier League in 2014-15 to win his first top-flight crown and get his hands on the PFA player of the year award.