Chelsea winger Eden Hazard has picked out Manchester City midfielder James Milner for special praise following a hard-fought 1-1 draw at the Etihad, admitting that Manuel Pellegrini's tactical switch made his life much more difficult.
Pellegrini decided to start Milner on the right flank to nullify Hazard, a decision probably made after City were soundly beaten by Chelsea in the corresponding fixture last season.
Hazard still managed to break free and set up Andre Schurrle for the opening goal but it was a terrific tussle between the £200,000-a-week star and Milner throughout, one that the Chelsea man felt deserved a mention in his post-match interview.
Milner more than worthy of a mention
The Belgian international told Chelsea's official website: ‘Last year we played the perfect match,’ he said. ‘This year [James] Milner defended more on the right-hand side. That made it more difficult for me to attack.
‘Having said that I thought we played well. It’s never easy to play at City. The first half was complicated; we didn’t have much time on the ball.
‘We defended well though and then we scored another good team goal, which we have been doing a lot this season. We need to continue like that and keep working hard.
‘We stay first in the league, too. Five matches played: four wins and a draw – it’s not a bad start.’
Tight clash between clear title contenders
Jose Mourinho's men still came very close to repeating their 1-0 win from last term, denied only by a late Frank Lampard equaliser that was written in the stars.
Schurrle's strike came four minutes after Pablo Zabaleta had been rather harshly dismissed, but a lack of adventure in Chelsea's play with a man advantage allowed Lampard to peg his former side back eight minutes from time.
Will City give Milner enough stars to stave off rival interest?
Mourinho can still look back on Chelsea's start to the season with a great deal of pride, but it was Milner who picked up the man-of-the-match award.
The England international has become a player that largely gets taken for granted at the Etihad, a willing runner who often gets unfairly labelled as a workhorse rather than praised for his technical quality.
Arsenal and Liverpool both rate the versatile midfield option highly and have been consistently linked with a bid for the £15m-rated Man City star, a stance praise from a world-class operator like Hazard will do little to dampen.