Hazard forced into central role as Giroud, Morata benched


London (AFP) – Eden Hazard is expected to operate in an unusual centre-forward role after Chelsea boss Antonio Conte left Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata on the bench for Tuesday’s Champions League last 16, first leg against Barcelona.

Giroud has made just two starts since joining from Arsenal on transfer deadline day last month, but opened his Chelsea account against Hull City in the FA Cup on Friday.

Morata, meanwhile, has made just two substitute appearances after a month out with a back injury.

Hazard will be flanked by former Barca winger Pedro Rodriguez and Willian, who scored twice against Hull.

Conte also left club captain Gary Cahill on the bench with Cesar Azpilicueta (capt), Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger starting in a back three.

Paulinho beat Andre Gomes to a place in the Barca midfield in the only doubt over Ernesto Valverde’s starting line-up.

The prolific partnership of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, who have 47 goals between them this season, start up front for the visitors.

However, Messi is looking for just his second win and first goal against Chelsea in his ninth outing against the Blues.

Starting line-ups

Chelsea (3-4-3)

Thibaut Courtois; Cesar Azpilicueta (capt), Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger; Victor Moses, N’Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas, Marcos Alonso; Willian, Eden Hazard, Pedro Rodriguez

Coach: Antonio Conte (ITA)

Barcelona (4-4-2)

Marc-Andre ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta (capt), Ivan Rakitic, Paulinho; Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez

Coach: Ernesto Valverde (ESP)

Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (TUR)

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