Chelsea kicked off their Champions League adventure with a thoroughly convincing 6-0 victory over Qarabag at Stamford Bridge. The Blues never looked back once Pedro had given them a fifth-minute lead and they proved far too good for their Azerbaijani opponents, who were competing in Europe’s flagship competition for the first time. Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, who made no fewer than five changes to his starting XI, will be delighted to have come through a potential banana skin unscathed, with Chelsea topping Group C after Roma and Atletico Madrid played out a goalless draw. Here are three things we learned.
Conte’s sweeping changes are vindicated
There was no place for the likes of Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko or Victor Moses in the team, with Conte having one eye on this weekend’s domestic clash with Arsenal. It was a calculated gamble, but had it backfired the Italian would have rightly been subjected to severe criticism. Conte was fortunate to be facing the weakest team in Group C, but this display showed the necessity of a big squad.
Chelsea were without European football last season, which enabled them to focus solely on the Premier League. The signings he made in the summer have brought increased competition and depth across all areas of the pitch, enabling him to rotate his squad when required.
Zappacosta enjoys a stunning full debut
As full debuts go, Davide Zappacosta’s could not have gone any better. The big-money deadline-day signing from Torino netted a spectacular goal that doubled Chelsea’s advantage after Pedro had settled their nerves. The Italy defender embarked on a rampaging run down the right flank before beating the Qarabag keeper from long range.
Zappacosta admitted afterwards that it had meant to be a cross, but his goal capped an assured performance that will have helped him settle into his surroundings. Of course, he will face tougher examinations defensively in both the Premier League and the Champions League. Nevertheless, it was the perfect way to introduce himself to the Chelsea faithful.
Willian gives his manager food for thought
He may not have scored on a fruitful evening, but Willian earned the man-of-the-match award for an impressive all-round performance. The Brazilian has found starts harder to come by recently under Conte, but he took this opportunity with both hands against Qarabag.
Willian hit the crossbar and also played a part in two of Chelsea’s six goals, as he ran the show from midfield and reminded his manager just what he has to offer. His display will certainly have given Conte food for thought when deciding who to select against Arsenal on Sunday.