Eden Hazard's Christmas Form Has Maintained Chelsea's Title Push

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Eden Hazard of Chelsea celebrates scoring the first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Warren Little/Getty Images

Two wins and a draw over the festive season have ensured a merry Christmas in the Mourinho household.

Chelsea's Portuguese manager will have every reason to feel happy and impressed with himself after seeing his team strengthen their Premier League title credentials while those around them have slipped up and fallen off the pace.

If Mourinho is looking for anyone to heap praise on for his team's good fortunes, he should look no further than Eden Hazard.

The Belgian has been in excellent form over Chelsea's festive fixtures, scoring the decisive goal against Swansea City in their 1-0 Boxing Day victory and pulling his team level against Liverpool three days later.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Eden Hazard of Chelsea breaks with the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Indeed, it was Hazard's performance against the Reds that really set him apart from the rest.

Not only was he a handful for Liverpool's back line, but his equalizer at Stamford Bridge on Sunday gave Chelsea the platform to eventually win the game 2-1, scoring the goal their dominance up to that point had deserved.

It's a line delivered on so many occasions throughout most football seasons: The best players show up at the most important moments. Right now, Hazard is doing nothing less.

Up to now, his reputation has taken somewhat of a beating publicly.

There was the incident in November when he was forced to miss a training session after an ill-advised trip to France to watch his former team Lille.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Eden Hazard of Chelsea celebrates in front of the fans after scoring a goal to level the scores at 1-1 during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on December 29, 2013 in London
Julian Finney/Getty Images

And while issues away from the pitch have raised questions over his character, his end product in matches hasn't perhaps been what it should.

Now Chelsea's leading goalscorer with 10 in all competitions, that criticism can no longer be upheld.

Hazard has not only been influential during a vital stage of the season—he's also beginning to win his team vital points.

In fact, Hazard's goals alone since November have been directly worth seven points after his 90th-minute penalty rescued a point against West Bromwich Albion, while a brace against Sunderland secured a 4-3 victory earlier this month, and his recent strike against Swansea was enough to claim a win.

Jose Mourinho has so much attacking talent at his disposal, it's difficult to speculate that had Hazard not featured in those matches, the results may have turned out otherwise.

The fact remains, though, of all the players Chelsea have in their talented squad, none of them are impacting matches like Hazard. Nor are they proving so vital.

It's taken us half the season to get to this point, and finally there seems to be some form of mini-league appearing at the top, with a breakaway developing.

Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea are leading the way with back-to-back defeats over the festive period, meaning Liverpool are now four points adrift of the Blues in third, having been top on Christmas Day.

Fortunately for Mourinho, he has Hazard on his side, and for that reason Chelsea are right at the heart of an intriguing title race.


Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes