Eden Hazard hailed Ross Barkley after his goalscoring display in Chelsea’s 3-0 victory over Southampton.
A combination of form and injuries meant Barkley struggled to make an impact under Antonio Conte but the 24-year-old has earned the trust of new manager Maurizio Sarri and finally appears to be fulfilling his early potential.
While Barkley only made a substitute appearance against Liverpool, the ex-Evertonian was handed a start at St Mary’s on Sunday and repaid Sarri’s faith.
The midfielder, who was recalled to Gareth Southgate’s England squad last month, provided the assist for Hazard’s opener before scoring Chelsea’s second in the 57th minute from close-range.
‘We are enjoying playing well and scoring goals,’ Hazard told Sky Sports after the win.
‘Ross Barkley is playing well. He scored and made an assist. He is doing well and working hard on the training ground.
‘It’s too early to be thinking about the title, we know it is tough to win.
‘But it is good to be up there. We’ll maybe watch Liverpool and Manchester City on the bus.’
Barkley claimed he’s feeling ‘really strong’ again following a frustrating season at Stamford Bridge last term.
‘My fitness levels and my performances are continuing to improve now,’ he told BBC Sport.
‘I’m in a good routine again now. I had a lot of injuries last season but that’s behind me now. I’m feeling really strong and looking forward to the season.
‘He’s fantastic, he’s a very intelligent man and he’s passing all his ideas to us to help us improve.
‘Not only that, he’s a great guy. He gets all the lads together and we’ve got a great team bond at the minute.’