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City's goal glut highlights Chelsea reliance on Morata

111   //    15 Oct 2017, 09:00 IST

By Matt Westby

LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester City’s 7-2 drubbing of Stoke City on Saturday made them the first team to score 29 goals in the opening eight games of a top-flight campaign since Everton in 1894-95.

Their tally has come from 10 players and all areas of the pitch, with Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling sharing the honour of top scorer with six apiece.

The contrast with champions Chelsea could not be starker. Antonio Conte’s team fell to a 2-1 defeat at Crystal Palace on Saturday and have now scored only 13 times - a third of City’s total - in a stuttering defence of their title.

Their league goals have come from just seven players, and of those, only Alvaro Morata has scored more than twice, netting six times.

It should be no surprise, therefore, that Chelsea have struggled in front of goal since Morata limped off with a hamstring injury after during the 1-0 home defeat by City two weeks ago.

They lacked pace and penetration up front for the remainder of that match and although Tiemoue Bakayoko scored in the defeat at Palace, their attacking potency in Morata’s absence was once again diminished at Selhurst Park.

Conte opted to replace Morata with Michy Batshuayi against the Premier League’s bottom club, but the 24-year-old Belgian did not make the most of the opportunity to prove himself worthy of regular starts.

Whereas Morata has supplemented his ruthless form in front of goal with pace, strong hold-up play and the ability to create chances out of nothing, Batshuayi struggled to match those standards and was substituted 12 minutes into the second half.

Yet his failings are not the only reason for Chelsea’s barren start, because goals have dried up in other areas of the pitch.

Eden Hazard contributed 16 goals to last season’s title-winning campaign but is yet to score this season, while Pedro scored nine times last season but has only found the net once this term. Willian has gone from scoring eight times last season to none this term.

The evidence clearly points to a dependency on Morata.

The Spaniard, a 60 million-pound ($80 million) signing from Real Madrid, could be back for the visit of AS Roma in the Champions League on Wednesday, and based on the evidence so far this season, Chelsea should be a far better team as a result.

($1 = 0.7528 pounds)

(Reporting by Matt Westby, editing by Ed Osmond)

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