In-form Morata ready for Atletico

LONDON • Alvaro Morata will approach Chelsea's Champions League trip to Atletico Madrid this week in top form, after his hat-trick inspired his side to a 4-0 win at Stoke City on Saturday.

Morata struck thrice at the bet365 Stadium to take his Chelsea tally to seven goals in six games since his close-season move from Real Madrid.

The Spaniard is the first Blue to net a treble in the Premier League since Diego Costa in September 2014, and showed there is life in Chelsea yet, a day after his international team-mate sealed his £58 million (S$105.4 million) move to Atletico.

But Chelsea manager Antonio Conte warned the 24-year-old not to rest on his laurels and wants his forward to maintain that level throughout the entire season.

"Morata played a good game. A really good performance. Now he has to continue this way to be a great striker," said the Italian.

"It's football. Sometimes the ball doesn't go in, like against Arsenal, and today, we had two chances and made two goals," Morata told Chelsea's official website, referring to their first-half display.

"We sent a good message to all the Premier League: Chelsea are in the fight for the title.

"The most important thing is we won today. It's a difficult place to come, but we won and now we can look to the Champions League."

The hat-trick crowned an impressive all-around performance in which Morata held the ball up well, showed excellent control and took his goals clinically.

Chelsea remain three points behind leaders Manchester City, whom they play at home on Saturday, in what could be one of the season's formative games.

"I think we have to be focused at what we do and not others," said Conte. "We want to fight in every competition we are playing."

The Italian confirmed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois suffered no ill-effects from a heavy landing on his neck during the second half. The Belgian will be fit to face former club Atletico on Wednesday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2017, with the headline 'In-form Morata ready for Atletico'. Print Edition | Subscribe