There was a moment in the Atletico Madrid-Chelsea game last night where Alvaro Morata brushed past Diego Godin, leaving him flattened across the turf at the new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
The sight of an experienced, canny La Liga-winning defender with over 100 caps for his native Uruguay left sprawling was one you might more associate with Diego Costa rather than Chelsea’s summer signing.
The sight of the onlooking Costa in the crowd added further intrigue to this fixture while Atletico had previously never lost to English opposition on home turf. Despite this, Chelsea’s win and Morata’s performance suggested that the bruising striker’s goals throughout his three years with Chelsea might not be missed as much as previously thought.
Morata’s every touch was unsurprisingly jeered by the roaring Atleti faithful but with his well-taken goal and abundance of optimistic efforts, he proved that he is brimming with confidence and relishing the task of being Chelsea’s leading man up front.
Morata’s hat-trick against Stoke was undoubtedly impressive, however, it must be noted that this was a makeshift defence he was up against. Devoid of Chelsea loanee Zouma among others, Stoke were not at their best.
Atletico are another animal. This win was against elite-level European competition. Nobody wants to play Atletico Madrid in Europe. They are a dogged, resilient team and in Diego Simeone, they have a coach that embodies the team’s ethos.
Dismissed by some in pre-season as having no Premier League experience, having only hit the 20-goal benchmark once in his career to date and perhaps lacking the game-winning pedigree of Costa, the Madrid-born striker is proving doubters wrong.
The variety of goals that he has so far conjured in the blue of Chelsea reiterate his attacking arsenal. From the deft, glancing header to equalise against Atletico to his second against Stoke, leaving Fletcher in his wake with a bustling run before brilliantly lifting the ball over the onrushing Butland.
It’s still early in the season, but at the end of September Conte’s decision to replace the disruptive bulldozer-like presence of Costa with Morata is proving to be a prudent one.
Matthew Coughlan, Pundit Arena