Who Is Better: Eden Hazard or Jesus Navas?
It is a clash that will bring about a huge amount of analysis—both pre and post-match—into what we can learn about both sides in what threatens to be the most open Premier League title race in history.
As an aside, it also hands us the opportunity to assess individual players in the two sides in one-on-one comparisons and form opinions as to who is the more important for their side or simply the better player overall.
Today, ahead of the match, attention turns to the two sides' widemen and, in particular, Chelsea's Eden Hazard and Manchester City's Jesus Navas—two very different players but both highly effective.
But who is better?
|NAME||Eden Hazard||Jesus Navas|
|Last season (appearances/goals)||34/9||36/0|
Belgian winger Hazard joined Chelsea from Lille last summer after an enormous amount of interest in his signature from elite clubs all around Europe, with Manchester City among those linked.
Since joining the Blues, his form has fluctuated massively. A spell towards the end of last season aside, when he was terrific for a period of several weeks, it is fair to say that English football has yet to see the best of Hazard's game.
What he has shown, though, is that once Chelsea are able to unlock his full potential, there is a potentially world-leading talent ready to explode on to the Champions League stage.
Hazard's major advantage over Navas is that he is two-footed and is happy to play on either side of the pitch or, indeed, centrally.
His best position, though, is on the left of the attack where he has proven to be a considerable threat cutting in on to his slightly favoured right foot.
One of his strongest attributes is his extreme acceleration, allowing him to race clear of defenders on to long diagonal balls into the channels. With wonderful close control and an excellent first touch, he is then able to collect the ball and terrorise the out-of-position back four.
His finishing is perhaps not as good as it could be, although his tally of nine Premier League goals—to add to 11 assists last campaign—would suggest he is not doing too badly.
It is as a supplier of goals that he excels, though, with WhoScored showing that only Juan Mata of Chelsea's squad created more goalscoring opportunities than Hazard's 76 key passes and assists last campaign.
At just 22, he has his best years ahead of him and should come to be one of football's most feared attacking players over coming years.
Manchester City's signing of Spain winger Jesus Navas this summer could prove to be one of the best buys in their recent history, plugging what had been a major gap for the side on the right flank.
City lacked real width last campaign and, while the statistics don't really show Navas as having made a major contribution to his side's attack, his mere presence on the wing has given an entirely new dynamic to the Citizens' side.
Navas is another blessed with raw pace, but unlike Hazard, he is much more inclined to remain fixed to the right flank and track up and down the touchline.
He has supplied more crosses into the area than any other player in Pellegrini's side this season, while only the mercurial David Silva has created more chances per game, according to WhoScored.
The result is that City are now able to stretch play much more than they have in recent seasons, using Navas' speed and desire to run at his full-back to open up the rest of the pitch.
With an all-round target man such as Alvaro Negredo in the box, Navas' tally of assists can only be expected to rise considerably as the season goes on.
Balance is key to the success of any side and, with David Silva not particularly inclined to stay wide from his left-sided starting position, Navas offers the ideal alternative from the right.
He has not started every City game to date but has been selected by his manager for all the side's biggest tests so far—including all three Champions League ties.
As such, it can only be assumed that he will be asked to give Chelsea's Ashley Cole a working over this Sunday.
When it comes to picking which player is the better footballer and has the bigger potential to be a match-winner, the answer is simple: Eden Hazard.
However, the Belgian must still find consistency to his game to be considered truly world class.
Navas, on the other hand, has consistency to his game but is not at the same level in terms of talent as his Belgian opposite number.
City, though, did not need a Hazard-type player this summer. They needed a more traditional style of wideman and that is what they have obtained in Navas.
Hazard, while better than some of their options, would not have offered the same variety.
In many respects, Chelsea could also use a Navas-style player—with their attacking midfield options all very much inclined to drift towards the centre. With such players becoming more and more prevalent, the value of high-quality traditional-style wingers will only increase.
Given time, though, Hazard could be the unique talent that wins major trophies for Chelsea and Belgium—his potential is simply phenomenal.
For all his strengths, Navas cannot compete in that regard and, thus, it can only be concluded that Hazard is the better player of the duo—and by some distance.
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