Chelsea marked their Champions League return with a 6-0 Group C rout of Azerbaijan’s Qarabag, but sterner tests await.

Goals from Pedro, Davide Zappacosta, Cesar Azpilicueta, substitute Tiemoue Bakayoko and a Michy Batshuayi double ensured a comfortable return to Europe’s elite after last season’s first absence since 2003-04.

Chelsea next play Atletico Madrid with the saga surrounding Diego Costa rumbling on, before home and away clashes with Roma. It is those games which will determine the Blues’ progress or otherwise.

Simon Johnson assesses the key talking points at Stamford Bridge…

Kante looks a natural in Europe

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N’Golo Kante has had to bide his time to play in the Champions League, but you wouldn’t know it.

This was his first appearance in the competition and he bossed midfield for the home side.

In his first interview with Standard Sport on joining the club in 2016, he explained how missing out on playing in the Champions League for Leicester last term wasn’t a gamble because he knew Chelsea would soon be back in it after failing to qualify.

And how his faith has been rewarded. Chelsea are in the competition once again as English champions and Kante will be a key part of their challenge.

Coach Antonio Conte has asked the France international to improve on the ball and it appears to be paying off. 

He was involved in a lot of attacking moves as well as his normal role of breaking up moves from the opposition.

Clearly Kante can only be properly judged at this level against stronger sides than Qarabag, yet this was an impressive start. 

Zappacosta’s performance no laughing matter for Moses

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Shortly after Zappacosta had marked his home debut with a goal tonight, the TV cameras panned to Moses on the bench.

Some of his Chelsea team-mates had obviously made a joke at his expense over the possible consequences for his first team place judging by the way Moses was reacting.

It was actually a moment of good humour, however Zappacosta showed enough quality for Moses to be worried about being in the starting XI.

The Nigeria international told this paper last week that he was ready to fight for his position in the team.

However, Zappacosta, who joined for £23m on deadline day, had a reputation at former club Torino for being a threat in the final third as an attacking right wing back.

Despite a great campaign last season, Moses’ end product has tended to be a bit of a disappointment. 

In contrast, Zappacosta looks like he can provide more of a cutting edge. His goal may have been a mishit cross, but no-one could dispute the fine late assist for Chelsea’s sixth.

Conte can trust Christensen

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This was another fine outing for the young Denmark international, who won’t be making up the numbers at Stamford Bridge this term.

Christensen was brought back from a two-year loan spell at Borussia Monchengladbach this summer, yet there were doubts over how much he would be involved.

Conte had already answered those fears in part by starting him against Tottenham, but that was partly because of Gary Cahill’s suspension.

The Italian had all his central defenders available tonight, yet opted for Christensen to play in the middle of the back three and gave David Luiz a rest instead.

Obviously he was expecting Qarabag to provide little danger, but it was still an important test for Christensen to pass.

He is used to the Champions League stage having played against the likes of Juventus and Manchester City for Borussia.

But Christensen still had to show he could cope with the occasion in a Chelsea shirt and he was coolness personified.

One interception and clever flick over the bewildered Pedro Henrique demonstrated the confidence he played with. It was something worthy of Luiz himself.

Conte won’t hesitate to call upon the 21-year-old again in future.

Batshuayi’s late contribution was vital

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It didn’t make the difference between victory and defeat, but Batshuayi’s two goals were key for the striker personally.

Memories of his heroics against West Brom to clinch the title in May had been forgotten after some underwhelming displays this term.

Given Conte wanted Chelsea to buy Fernando Llorente, only to lose out to Tottenham, showed he is still not convinced by the Belgium international.

Some early poor control and inability to take chances, were met with disgust by the Chelsea coach on the sidelines.

The Blues’ supporters werren’t shy in hiding their frustration either, even though the men in blue were cruising.

So for Batshuayi to fire in the fifth from the outside the box and the sixth from close range will just ease some of the pressure from his shoulders.

Source: https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/chelsea-champions-league-analysis-ngolo-kante-natural-davide-zappacosta-cutting-edge-a3633381.html