Newcastle vs Chelsea : It was very hard - Sarri

Hazard Kovacic start for Chelsea at Newcastle

"Two-hundred per cent ready".

Blues boss Maurizio Sarri has handed Eden Hazard his first start of the new season as the Belgian global replaces Willian in attack with Pedro keeping his place having scored in his last two games.

Hazard shone on his return, and Sarri's side were far the more positive.

Newcastle set up in a defensive shell, hoping to limit the damage of the more talented visitors.

There were no signs of rustiness - only the usual intent and imagination on the ball and determination off it. Hazard was targeted by Newcastle from the start, with Matt Ritchie raking his studs down the back of his leg inside the first minute, but he did not hide. Yet the first decent chance occurred at the other end, when Salomon Rondon flashed a free header wide. You could say that both Chelsea and Newcastle were feeling a little hard done by at the full time whistle as a banged up Magpies squad didn't have the ball often but frustrated Chelsea throughout.

It was certainly a harsh call on a Newcastle defense who had been so tough to break down, but Alonso didn't think so. "But I think, in this case, with this team, there are very intelligent players". It was not the only occasion his vision stretched Newcastle's stubborn defence. The two teams were tied at 2-2 for most of the second half before an 81st-minute goal from Marco Alonso secured the win.

While the referee's decision to grant the penalty for Chelsea may have come under scrutiny, it is sure that Alonso did not make any attempts to earn a penalty at the crucial moment of the game.

Conte arrived at Chelsea in the summer of 2016 and settled on a 4-3-3 formation after trialling 4-2-4 in preseason, but comprehensive defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal prompted him to turn to the 3-4-3 system that ultimately propelled the Blues to an unexpected Premier League title triumph.

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"But I think, in this case, with this team, there are very intelligent players", noted Sarri.

By contrast, Chelsea spent nearly £130m on just two players, keeper Kepa and midfielder Jorginho, and Benitez knows that will make a repeat of last season's heroics all the more hard.

"But a new contract is out of my responsibility". I am not happy with how we gave the ball away.

"I have never seen a Rafa Benitez side play with five defenders", said Sarri, who replaced Benitez as coach of Italian side Napoli in 2015.

He certainly seems to be enjoying himself.

The Blues host Bournemouth on Saturday, with Loftus-Cheek competing with N'Golo Kante, Ross Barkley and new signings Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic for game time. To draw with five minutes from the end, it would have been more hard.

83' - GOAL! Newcastle 1-1 Chelsea.

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