Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta has this this evening been absolutely lauded online, following his brilliant showing during the Blues’ 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion.
The two sides went head to head at Stamford Bridge, with Antonio Conte’s men desperate for all 3 points following a dismal run of form which saw the Blues fall to consecutive 3-goal defeats at the hands of Bournemouth and Watford.
West Brom, meanwhile, had fallen to defeats in their last 2 Premier League outings, the latter of which came in hugely disappointing fashion at home to fellow strugglers Southampton.
Ahead of tonight, the Baggies sat rock bottom of the English top-flight table, a full 5 points behind 19th-placed Stoke City.
The lineups for tonight’s crucial matchup were announced an hour prior to kick-off, with a number of notable inclusions and absences for hosts Chelsea.
Andreas Christensen returned to the heart of the Blues’ defence following a spell on the sidelines, while Olivier Giroud earned his first start for the Premier League champions up front.
Cesc Fabregas was also included from the start, stepping in for the suspended Tiemoue Bakayoko, while Alvaro Morata was fit enough for a place on the Chelsea bench.
However, Marcos Alonso was a notable absentee, with the Spaniard having been a surprise late scratch from the Blues’ squad for their clash with Watford last week as a ‘precautionary measure’.
Team to face WBA: Courtois; Azpilicueta (c), Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Zappacosta; Pedro, Giroud, Hazard.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 12, 2018
West Brom boss Alan Pardew, meanwhile, opted for the following, with Daniel Sturridge joining Salomon Rondon in a dangerous-looking forward line for the Baggies:
— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) February 12, 2018
However, in a massive blow for the visitors with just 2 minutes on the clock, Danny Sturridge went to ground clutching his hamstring following an innocuous challenge from Cesar Azpilicueta, with the 28-year-old eventually succumbing to the problem and making his way down the Stamford Bridge tunnel with frustration etched across his face.
Following a shaky opening quarter of an hour for Chelsea, the Blues began to take firm control of proceedings as the half wore on, with Eden Hazard looking particularly dangerous.
And it was the brilliant Belgian who went on to break the deadlock with 25 minutes on the clock, playing a neat one-two with Olivier Giroud on the edge of the West Brom box before rifling home a perfect finish into the bottom-left corner of Ben Foster’s goal.
The second-half saw the home side maintain their dominance, with Victor Moses handing the Premier League champions a deserved second after Cesc Fabregas’ pass landed fortuitously at the feet of the Nigerian inside the West Brom box.
And Eden Hazard soon put the game firmly to bed with his brace and Chelsea’s 3rd of the night, picking up the ball on the right corner of the Baggies’ box before cutting inside and drilling a wonderful finish with his left foot past the wrong-footed Ben Foster.
While it was Man of the Match Hazard who understandably took the majority of the plaudits following the full-time whistle this evening, another of Chelsea’s stars came in for just as much praise online, following his own stellar showing.
The player in question was Cesar Azpilicueta, who played a captain’s role for Antonio Conte’s men throughout the 90 minutes tonight with typically no-nonsense defending, perfect positioning, flawless distribution and improving leadership qualities.
Check out the best of the social media reaction to ‘Azpi”s brilliant performance below:
Azpilicueta is the best defender in the league by far. Underrated!
— #TeamLH44 (@Nadal_LH_Fan) February 12, 2018
Azpilicueta is the best defender in the Prem
— Sam Jennings (@Sam_Jennings1) February 12, 2018
Azpilicueta best defender in the league.
— Kyle (@KyleRoberts_CFC) February 12, 2018
Azpilicueta has gotta be the best defender in the league, majorly for his consistent top performances. But quite underrated
— Sir_MOH (@Ola_Muhammed) February 12, 2018
Azpilicueta is arguably the best defender in EPL
— #GET (@YorubaMontana) February 12, 2018
Azpilicueta is the best defender in the league don’t fucking @ meeee
— Shad (@shadhoner) February 12, 2018
Azpilicueta, best defender in the league 100% #cfc
— abu okhai (@abuokhai) February 12, 2018
Azpilicueta is the best defender since Prime Terry
— Jamie (@LegendJohnTerry) February 12, 2018
Azpilicueta is the best defender in the league by a mile
— George (@GKilloughery) February 12, 2018