Trying times ahead for Chelsea
Chelsea are waking up to the realisation that this season may not be a battle for a top-four place and could yet be a much less exciting affair.
Their opening Premier League defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford set a few alarm bells ringing for Blues fans. The absence of Belgium ace Eden Hazard is likely to be felt far more than many expected.
A player of such quality was always going to be missed by the any club and Hazard was always the go-to man in the Chelsea side if things were not going well on the field.
He proved on numerous occasions that he had the ability to take a game by the scruff of the neck and change the course of a tight match.
Now it is Real Madrid who will benefit from that sort of quick attack and Chelsea are left looking for someone else to take over the mantle.
Ross Barkley has been pushed into a more forward-thinking position by rookie boss Frank Lampard, who himself may soon start to wonder what he has taken on. Whilst Barkley is undoubtedly talented, he is no Hazard and Lampard himself may soon start to feel the heat.
The relatively calm waters of the Championship with Derby, where everything he achieved was considered a bonus, has been swapped for the maelstrom of Stamford Bridge. He will be expected to lead a collection of highly-paid players to Champions League qualification at the very least.
An opening 4-0 drubbing is the worst start to a season by any Chelsea manager for over 40 years, so the magnitude of his task is beginning to dawn on him.
Frank Lampard spoke to us after yesterday's defeat in Manchester… pic.twitter.com/Jzb9G8rSnC
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 12, 2019
The loss of Hazard is a nightmare for Lampard and it has been compounded by the transfer ban.
They moved quickly in January to sign USA international Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund, but he is no Hazard, either, and after 32 bruising minutes at Old Trafford on Sunday, he too will know the future will not be bright too quickly.
The 20-year-old will undoubtedly be compared to Hazard and at £57m-plus he will be expected to make an instant impact, but that is unlikely to be the case. Although his new boss will give him the time needed to adapt, it remains to be seen if the fans do the same.
There could well be trying times ahead for the team and the manager. Next up for the Blues is the Super Cup final in Istanbul on Wednesday against Liverpool.