Eden Hazard took one look at who was sitting next to him on the bench on Saturday and knew Chelsea had the squad to compete on all fronts this season.

Much has been said about the strength in depth at Stamford Bridge since they won the title in May and how returning to the Champions League – their first game is against Qarabag on Tuesday – will put their resources to the test.

Coach Antonio Conte expressed such concerns on more than one occasion himself, but now the Italian’s tone has changed. The talk is of rotation, not frustration.

And his list of substitutes for the match at Leicester on Saturday compared to when they lost to Burnley on the opening day explains why.

Along with Hazard, who has significantly returned from a fractured ankle, were summer signings Willy Caballero, David Zappacosta and Danny Drinkwater, plus internationals Willian, Michy Batshuayi and Andreas Christensen.

In contrast, due to injuries, suspensions and a yet to be completed transfer window, Chelsea began the campaign with youngsters Charly Musonda, Kenedy, Kyle Scott and Fikayo Tomori making up the numbers.

Musonda is a fine talent and will get a chance to impress on occasion, even possibly against Qarabag, but big clubs need big players to win silverware.

As Hazard told Standard Sport: “It is important for Chelsea to have a strong bench because this season we have a lot of games.

“We are fighting for the Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup and Champions League, so we need to be ready for all of that. 

In Pictures | Chelsea launch new third kit for 2017/18

1/7 Chelsea launch new third kit

2/7 Chelsea launch new third kit

3/7 Chelsea launch new third kit

4/7 Chelsea launch new third kit

5/7 Chelsea launch new third kit

6/7 Chelsea launch new third kit

7/7 Chelsea launch new third kit

“All of Chelsea’s signings are internationals. You need quality when you play for this club because we want to win a lot of things. 

“The more players we have the better it is for us. The bench was strong, it was good against Leicester. 

“There was Willian, Batshuayi, me and so on – these kind of players can change the game. We all want to play and that’s good. 

“None of us want to sit on the bench, but we have a good team and the guys that started against Leicester deserved to play. 

“We had a strong team last season, but we have a strong team this season.”

It should certainly prove too good for Qarabag, who are making their debut in the Champions League (not including qualifiers) this evening.

But Hazard insists there is no room for complacency given Chelsea have Atletico Madrid and Roma in their group.

He added: “It is very important for us to win our first game at home. After Qarabag we play Atletico Madrid away and then both games with Roma so we need to take three points tonight if we want to start well. 

“We know that we have just six games to go through to the knock-out stage so we have to be ready from the very first minute.”

The way Conte was talking in his pre-match press conference yesterday, Hazard won’t start against Qarabag either.

Conte’s caution is understandable given the seriousness of the Belgium international’s injury and his importance to Chelsea’s chances of success this term. 

Plus there is a certain match against London rivals Arsenal on Sunday to prepare for.

Hazard, who made a brief cameo at Leicester, is happy to accept whatever Conte decides, but is keen to stress to the club’s fans that there are no complications with his recovery.

“I think I am ready to start,” he said. “Before Leicester, I played against Gibraltar and Malta for the national team, I played against Everton with a young Chelsea team (in Premier League 2), so I just want to play. 

“I am not at 100 per cent. I need maybe a couple more games to get to that level, but I just want to be on the pitch and enjoy the situation.”

Source: https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/eden-hazard-chelsea-have-strength-in-depth-to-compete-on-all-fronts-after-quality-transfers-a3632556.html