The young Brazilian's impressive NextGen performance against CSKA Moscow suggests he could be ready to make his mark in a senior squad which is light on strikers
By John Stammers at Cobham
Chelsea may have splashed a cool £80 million on Eden Hazard & Co. this summer, but there is a certain 18-year-old Brazilian already at Roberto Di Matteo's disposal who is more than worthy of a chance.
Lucas Piazon has been likened to Kaka, though he normally plays further up the pitch, and the reasoning was clear when the Blues' U-19 side took on their CSKA Moscow counterparts in their first game of the NextGen series.
The former Sao Paulo starlet was the stand-out performer from an impressive Chelsea team, that did not deserve to lose 2-1 to the Russian outfit, at Cobham training ground on Tuesday evening.
|CHELSEA'S STRIKING LACK OF OPTIONS
Chelsea appearances: 69 (24)
Chelsea goals: 13
National team: Spain
Chelsea appearances: 84 (37)
Chelsea goals: 22
National team: England
Chelsea appearances: 0
Chelsea goals: 0
National team: Nigeria
Piazon created his own chances; stating his intent in the opening minutes with a shot that went narrowly wide before a fine solo run ending in a left-footed effort again just missing the post. He drew fouls and was on the end of some heavy tackles, which he took with minimal fuss, as the visiting side found his speed on the turn hard to combat.
The teen stung the gloves of Sergey Revyakin in the CSKA goal with a couple of thunderous drives from range in the second period, while the forward also glanced a powerful header towards the top corner, only to see the keeper tip wide brilliantly.
He then turned provider as he slotted in team-mate Islam Feruz, after an expertly executed dummy created a yard of space on the edge of the area, but Revyakin was again on hand to keep CSKA ahead. The wonderkid was even spotted tracking back and sticking his own boot in where it hurts, though he was helpless to deny the Russians scoring with virtually their only two efforts, cancelling out Patrick Bamford's early opener.
In short, Piazon demonstrated all the necessary dimensions that a complete Premier League forward needs. The only thing missing were goals, and had Revyakin not been in inspired form in-between the sticks for CSKA's youth side, a side that boasts Igor Akinfeev as a former member, they would have come as well.
This was not a one off, either. The 18-year-old was close to breaking into the first team last season, after winning plaudits for his reserve team displays the attacker trained with the main squad and won a place on the bench on three occasions in the Premier League. He was part of last year's FA Youth Cup winning side, as well.
Former Blues boss, and ex-scout, Andre Villas-Boas spoke highly of the youngster, who can also play as a winger and indeed drifted onto the left touchline fairly often on Tuesday evening, telling reporters after one match: "[Piazon's] made great progress since arriving. He is a player that we have high hopes for."
Current boss Di Matteo, too, mirrors the Portuguese's hopes and handed him a chance to impress on the club's pre-season tour of the USA, where he made his senior debut against Seattle Sounders before scoring in his second appearance against PSG, earning Chelsea a draw. The forward, who, after the goal against the French side, his manager labelled as "certainly one to watch", then impressed again against the MLS All-Stars and AC Milan, performances that earned him a place on the bench in the Community Shield defeat to Manchester City.
And what better time for a striker to break into the Chelsea team than now? Yes, they have made a perfect start to the league season by winning three games out of three. It's true that Roman Abramovich has spent big on a number of summer signings, Eden Hazard, in particular, flourishing already. And indeed the recently ridiculed, but once unplayable, Fernando Torres seems to be returning to his old self after some sharp displays and two goals. However, there is a gap.
|Read our match report as Chelsea were beaten by CSKA Moscow in their first NextGen fixture|
Though the Blues have been linked with a whole host of names to fill that gap, Hulk just one of a long list, no-one has arrived yet and time is running out. Furthermore, the names already secured offer bags of creativity in the final third, but not someone who can lead the line if Torres needs a rest, or indeed if his confidence falters once more. Piazon can.
Of course, Piazon was not the only name to impress in the clash at their Cobham training ground. Summer sensation Eden Hazard's younger brother, Thorgan, also started the game and displayed moments of brilliance in Chelsea's early dominance. The 19-year-old, signed from Lens, played a part in one of the Brazilian's early chances and also caused problems with some flashy turns and skilful touches, though his end product was not as good and he failed to find a second gear in the second-half before being withdrawn.
Highly-rated 17-year-old talent Nathaniel Chalobah, who has been capped at England U-19 level, also looked a player for the future as he was able to dictate the game with his passing in the first-half, dropping deep to collect the ball from defence as Chelsea always looked to pass out from the back. Substitute Jeremie Boga, who is still a school boy, was another to catch the eye as the midfielder came on with great effect, nearly earning a point himself as well as crossing for Piazon and threading goalscorer Bamford in on goal.
Although they, somewhat undeservedly, lost their first ever NextGen game the tournament promises to be an exciting one for the Blues, however long they stay in it. All the members of their youth team, that can name John Terry, Ryan Bertrand and Fabio Borini as former players, are certain to want to impress as they look to emulate Liverpool's Raheem Sterling by using it as a stepping stone to first-team success - something Samba boy Piazon is well equipped to do.
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