Power Ranking Every Player for Chelsea in 2017 Champions League Group Stage

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistDecember 6, 2017

Chelsea's Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard celebrates an own goal by Atletico Madrid's Montenegrin defender Stefan Savic during a UEFA Champions League Group C football match between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge in London on December 5, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK        (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

It's a case of so far, so good for Chelsea in the Champions League.

After a year out of the competition in 2016/17, Antonio Conte's men have qualified for this season's last 16, although they will be disappointed to have done so by finishing second to AS Roma in Group C.

That means the Blues could face Paris Saint-Germain or Barcelona in the next round. While that is frustrating, the important thing for Conte and his players to recognise is qualification from their group is progress enough for a team that continues to evolve.

The task now is to ensure evolution continues in Europe beyond the round of 16, which starts in February.

With the group stage over for the Blues, let's take a look back at the big hitters and those players who need to do more to power Chelsea forward on the continent.

               

18. Danny Drinkwater

Appearances: 2

Goals: 0

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Danny Drinkwater of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge on December 2, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

In terms of Chelsea appearances, Danny Drinkwater is still to hit double figures after his deadline-day move to Stamford Bridge. Two of his nine games have come in the Champions League as a late substitute against Roma and Qarabag. He would probably have more to his name had he not been carrying a thigh injury when he joined the Blues.

There's more to come from Drinkwater, but for now he has plenty to do to make up for lost time.

             

17. Victor Moses

Appearances: 2

Goals: 0

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Victor Moses of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge on December 2, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Thanks to injury and rotation, Victor Moses has only played twice in the Champions League for Chelsea this season. It's meant he hasn't had a big role in the Blues making it through to the last 16.

Now back fit and already making an impact with an assist against Newcastle United in the Premier League last weekend, it won't be long before he's reinstated as first-choice right wing-back.

            

16. Davide Zappacosta

Appearances:  4

Goals: 1

Atletico Madrid's Ghanaian midfielder Thomas (L) blocks Chelsea's Italian defender Davide Zappacosta during a UEFA Champions League Group C football match between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge in London on December 5, 2017. / AFP PHOTO /
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

When the Italian scored a wonder goal with his cross-cum-shot against Qarabag on Matchday 1, Chelsea fans were hoping they had unearthed a gem after capturing Davide Zappacosta on transfer deadline day.

It hasn't quite been like that, with that goal being the exception to an otherwise uninspiring start to life at Chelsea. Zappacosta is still settling, though, so we can't be too harsh. In terms of his impact, there hasn't been much, though.

Zappacosta appeared on Matchday 6 as the left wing-back and justified his selection. Could that be an option for Conte to rotate later this year?

             

15. David Luiz

Appearances: 4

Goals: 1

Chelsea's Brazilian defender David Luiz warms up on the pitch ahead of the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and  Chelsea at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on November 25, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Paul ELLIS / RESTRICTED TO EDIT
PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

From hero to zero in the space of a few months, David Luiz has had the sort of campaign players despair over. He's been replaced by Andreas Christensen in the starting line-up and his latest Champions League outing saw him start against Qarabag in order to rest the Denmark international.

Sometimes it's about the games you play and not those you miss. That start in Azerbaijan said plenty about where Luiz is in the Chelsea pecking order right now, which is why he ranks so low here.

In terms of his Champions League status at Stamford Bridge, he's become a back-up.

             

14. Tiemoue Bakayoko

Appearances: 5

Goals 1

Atletico Madrid's French striker Antoine Griezmann (L) vies with Chelsea's French midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko during a UEFA Champions League Group C football match between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge in London on December 5, 2017. / AFP
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

The French midfielder was a feature of Monaco's run to the Champions League semis last year, but Chelsea fans are still waiting for him to make the same impact in west London. He's still settling, though, having only joined the club in the summer, when he wasn't fully fit either.

Time will show the wisdom in signing Tiemoue Bakayoko, although Chelsea will have to get used to his inconsistent form for now. He still has plenty to learn, as was shown in the games against Roma where Chelsea lost the midfield battle, and with it, the group.

               

13. Thibaut Courtois

Appearances: 6

Clean sheets: 2

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Thibaut Courtois of Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Chelsea FC and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge on December 5, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Ima
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Chelsea faced two big tests in their group—the matches at home and away to Roma. The challenge of Atletico Madrid didn't quite materialise, which made it a two-horse race for top spot.

Thibaut Courtois shipped six goals against Roma, though, and the Belgian won't be happy with that record. He's not solely at fault for those, but it's a record that stands against him in our rankings.

                  

12. Antonio Rudiger

Appearances: 4

Goals: 0

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29:  Antonio Rudiger of Chelsea celebrates after scoring his sides second goal during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on November 29, 2017 in London, England  (Photo by Clive Rose/Get
Clive Rose/Getty Images

It should've been the other way around: The expectation was Antonio Rudiger would look more assured in the Champions League than in the Premier League in the early part of his Chelsea career.

However, while the German has impressed in domestic competition, he's looked out of sorts in continental competition. His error for Roma's second in the 3-0 defeat in Italy proved to be a case in point.

               

11. Marcos Alonso

Appearances: 5

Goals: 0

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29:  Marcos Alonso of Chelsea looks on during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on November 29, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Marcos Alonso has a long season ahead of him given he remains the sole left wing-back at Chelsea. That's meant the Spaniard featuring in every Champions League game this term up to Matchday 6, when he was rested.

Alonso hasn't set the world alight with his form; equally, he has been solid enough to have not been embarrassed against Roma and Atletico Madrid. As the competition evolves this season, he needs to show a bit more guile, however.

             

10. Pedro

Appearances: 5

Goals: 1

Chelsea's Spanish midfielder Pedro (L) vies with Atletico Madrid's Argentinian striker Angel Correa during a UEFA Champions League Group C football match between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge in London on December 5, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / G
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Here's a quiz question: Which Chelsea player scored the first Champions League goal of the Antonio Conte era? The answer is Pedro, who took just five minutes to do so against Qarabag on Matchday 1 on September 12.

He hasn't done much else since then in the tournament, with his form being affected by a lack of opportunities in the Premier League. He has suffered with the switch of formation and looks a shadow of the player from last term when the Blues marched their way to the Premier League title.

               

9. Gary Cahill

Appearances: 6

Goals: 0

Chelsea's English defender Gary Cahill controls the ball during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Swansea City at Stamford Bridge in London on November 29, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Adrian DENNIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use
ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

We've already mentioned with Luiz how it's about the games a player doesn't play that outlines their position at a club. For Gary Cahill, it's worked in reverse to the former Paris Saint-Germain man.

While the Brazilian has started matches against the likes of Qarabag in order to rest others, Cahill has been rested in the Premier League ahead of big Champions League matches. That says something about the trust Conte has in the Chelsea captain, showing that while some may want him to be benched, the manager has other thoughts.

             

8. Cesc Fabgregas

Appearances: 6

Goals: 1

Chelsea's Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas attends a press conference at Stamford Bridge in London on December 4, 2017, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League Group C football match against Atletico Madrid. / AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK        (Photo credit
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Plenty has been made of Cesc Fabregas' comeback at Chelsea this season. This time last year, he seemed to be frozen out by Conte, but now he is an essential part of this side and the way the Blues play.

His position is only going to get stronger as the season progresses, too. His continental style suits Chelsea in Europe and his value to this side is huge, shown by the fact he has featured in every Champions League game this term.

              

7. N'Golo Kante

Appearances: 4

Goals: 0

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Ngolo Kante of Chelsea and Fernando Torres of Atletico Madrid during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Chelsea FC and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge on December 5, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Here's more about games players play or don't play. For N'Golo Kante, missing Chelsea's back-to-back matches with Roma made him even more vital to the cause than had he featured against the Italians. The Blues' midfield was overrun without him and Chelsea paid the price, drawing 3-3 at home before a 3-0 loss in Rome that would decide the group winner.

Kante was supreme against Atletico when Chelsea recorded a 2-1 victory on Matchday 2 and those Roma matches reminded us of his quality.

            

6. Willian

Appearances: 6

Goals: 2

Chelsea's Brazilian midfielder Willian runs during a UEFA Champions League Group C football match between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge in London on December 5, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK        (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Scoring twice against Qarabag in Baku has elevated Willian up these rankings, although he would have been even higher had he slotted home his late chance against Atletico Madrid on Matchday 6 that would have won the game.

Like Pedro, he's been a victim of the changes Conte has introduced, with just one attacking midfielder needed to support Alvaro Morata in attack in the 3-5-1-1. That spot goes to Eden Hazard, with Willian and Pedro living off scraps.

Willian seized his opportunity against Qarabag, though; not only scoring twice but also winning the penalty that set Chelsea on their way to a 4-0 victory. Given how Roma and Atletico struggled in Azerbaijan, the Blues' victory was impressive and Willian was at the heart of it.

                

5. Michy Batshuayi

Appearances: 4

Goals: 2

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05:  Michy Batshuayi of Chelsea is challenged by Lucas Hernandez of Atletico Madrid during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Chelsea FC and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge on December 5, 2017 in London, United K
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Many will be surprised by the Belgian ranking so high here, but we're acknowledging how Michy Batshuayi has used the Champions League to show he can be the perfect foil for Morata when the time calls.

Morata had put Chelsea on level terms against Atletico Madrid on Matchday 2 before hobbling off. When most thought the game was over—and Chelsea would have to play for the draw—Batshuayi arrived to score the last-minute winner.

That has carried over into the Premier League, with his goals against Watford on October 21 saving three points. His display against Atletico was something we hadn't seen from him before.

             

4. Cesar Azpilicueta

Appearances: 6

Goals: 1

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Chelsea FC and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge on December 5, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Im
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Chelsea's vice-captain continues to show he's probably the most important player in Conte's side.

He rarely misses a game, and his consistency has helped Chelsea develop a solid back line in the 18 months the Italian has been in charge. He's enjoying another fine campaign, with his Champions League form being a big part of that.

Take him out of Chelsea's rearguard and things don't look quite the same.

              

3. Andreas Christensen

Appearances: 4

Goals: 0

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Andreas Christensen of Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Chelsea FC and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge on December 5, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Remember, these are power rankings, not popularity statements or based on importance. Were they about popularity, Christensen would be ranked No. 1 as his emergence this season has seen him become a firm crowd favourite.

With John Terry gone from Stamford Bridge, the 21-year-old has stepped in to fill the void to give an academy presence in the first team. He's dislodged Luiz as the libero in Conte's back three and his star is rising rapidly as a result, seeing him climb these rankings.

             

2. Alvaro Morata

Appearances: 5

Goals: 1

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Alvaro Morata of Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Chelsea FC and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge on December 5, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

He's only scored one goal in Europe, against Atletico Madrid, but we're not judging Morata on that; it's more about how the Champions League has been the breeding ground for his partnership with Eden Hazard to flourish.

Chelsea's attack has a new dynamic, one that's maturing. Morata's style allows for that, with his constant movement and clever positioning being the catalyst for Conte to implement his changes. It all started in Madrid with his performance and goal against Atletico on Matchday 2.

                

1. Eden Hazard

Appearances: 6

Goals: 3

Chelsea's Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard applauds the crowd after a UEFA Champions League Group C football match between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge in London on December 5, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK        (Photo credit should read
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

There's no doubt Hazard is Chelsea's best player—a fact reinforced by his Champions League form this season.

He rescued a point against Roma on Matchday 3 at Stamford Bridge, but he was also incredible against Atletico Madrid in Spain.

He did all that while still getting back to full fitness after an ankle injury saw him miss pre-season. Now he's fully fit, Chelsea appear a completely different proposition.