Alvaro Morata has adapted well to Premier League - Antonio Conte
STOKE -- Antonio Conte praised Alvaro Morata for rising to the physical challenge of the Premier League after the striker scored his first Chelsea hat trick in a 4-0 rout of Stoke City.
Morata opened the scoring in the second minute at the bet365 Stadium and netted twice in quick succession after the interval to take his tally this season to six goals in his first six Premier League matches, as Chelsea delivered an emphatic reminder of the defensive strength and ruthless finishing that made them champions in 2016-17.
Following last weekend's goalless draw with Arsenal it was suggested that Morata might be struggling with the aggression of defenders and the different style of refereeing in England, but Conte singled out the Spain international's physicality after the Stoke win.
"Now he is involved totally in our style of football and our idea and he is very strong," Conte said. "You can see that today [he took] a lot of good contact and tackles and I think he's showing that he's a really good, complete player.
"This league is not easy, above all for the strikers because during the game there is a lot of physical contact, and you must be prepared for this type of game because referees don't whistle a lot and that's good for the game.
"He adapted very well to this league but now he has to continue to work and improve because I think he has only just started his path."
Morata's red-hot form ensured Conte had no regrets over leaving Eden Hazard on the substitutes' bench. The Belgian played only the final 20 minutes on Saturday as Chelsea continue to manage his return to fitness from a broken ankle, but Conte suggested that his star winger is now ready to make a significant contribution in huge matches against Atletico Madrid and Manchester City this week.
"I think now Eden is improving a lot and for sure he is in contention for the game against Atletico Madrid," Conte added. "After a bad injury and surgery you need time but I think he is showing that he's ready. He is almost ready to play but if I make this decision it will be because I am comfortable with this decision.
"I think we are managing his recovery very well. Hazard is very important for us and now it's important to be sure that he's ready to play for the whole game."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.