Chelsea legend Pat Nevin says playing Eden Hazard as a ‘false number nine’ in the Europa League final against Arsenal would be a big risk.
The Belgian has been in scintillating form for the Blues this season, mainly in his more familiar role on the left, scoring 19 goals and winning the club’s player of the season award.
But boss Maurizio Sarri has also used his star man as a centre-forward on occasions, notably in some games against the stronger sides.
Nevin told West London Sport that Hazard’s impact could be significantly reduced if he plays up front in Wednesday’s Europa League final in Baku, Azerbaijan.
“I hope Eden doesn’t play as a false nine,” Nevin said. “It’s kind of worked sometimes and not worked at other times.
“When it doesn’t work you are taking one of the best, if not the best, left wingers in the world and sticking him at centre-forward where he is OK, you have suddenly got a brilliant player who is OK.
“He has had a couple of games where he has been exceptional up front and it is up to Sarri to think will this game suit Eden to play there and the group of players he is up against.”
Former Gunner Olivier Giroud has normally been the first-choice striker in Europe, and has impressed with 10 goals in 11 starts.
Nevin said it would be a really big call to drop the Frenchman and tinker with the tactics by moving Hazard.
“It is a really tough, big call,” Nevin said. “Giroud has scored a lot of goals in the competition and he knows some of those Arsenal defenders really well.”
Nevin also says Chelsea have the quality to cope without England midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who like Callum Hudson-Odoi has an Achilles injury, but admitted it is a “massive loss”.
“Both Callum and Ruben were really coming on,” Nevin said. “Maybe Ruben slightly more against the top teams.
“What they do is break the lines. Obviously Eden does but how many other players really go by people with strength, skill, pure power or pure speed? They can.
“Until recently it was Ross Barkley, Mateo Kovacic or Ruben and you couldn’t tell. But by the end of the season it was Ruben’s; he had won that battle.
“Yes, It will be a really quite big loss. But if Kante is fit you have the Kovacic, Kante and Jorginho and that is pretty strong. It is a midfield that can keep the ball pretty well so there is nothing to worry about there.”