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Chelsea's Qarabag trip: The numbers

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Alvaro Morata deserves spotlight as Chelsea visit Costa and Atletico

The guys respond to your tweets about Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata, taking breaks in matches and more.
The guys respond to your tweets about Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata, taking breaks in matches and more.

Alvaro Morata never topped the bill at Real Madrid and, when he returns to the Spanish capital this week, he will probably find himself overshadowed by the presence of Atletico Madrid's new centre-forward if Diego Costa chooses to act as an unwanted distraction by turning up for Chelsea's Champions League visit to the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.

Such has been the story of Morata's career so far. The 24-year-old is a supremely talented striker, a player blessed with the physique, technical ability and goal-scoring instinct to have his name in lights, yet so far, it has always been about somebody else.

Even when he arrived at Chelsea in July, it was because Manchester United had suddenly dropped their interest in him in order to beat the Premier League champions to the signing of Romelu Lukaku -- the goal scorer who had long been Antonio Conte's primary summer target.

Chelsea wanted Lukaku, but they ended up with Morata. Not a bad second choice, but second choice all the same.

And so it goes that, after adding to his impressive start at Stamford Bridge by scoring a hat trick in Saturday's 4-0 victory at Stoke, Morata heads back to Madrid with the focus once again on somebody else.

Having completed his £55 million return to Atletico last Thursday following his summer-long stand-off with Chelsea, Costa reacquainted himself with his old fans in Madrid by watching from the stands as Diego Simeone's team defeated Sevilla 2-0 at the club's new stadium on Saturday.

Even though he cannot play until January due to Atletico's worldwide transfer ban, Costa will be the talk of the town from the moment that Conte and his Chelsea squad arrive in Madrid on Tuesday.

Such was the acrimony between Costa and Conte, it will be impossible to escape the narrative of the two men being in the same place at the same time on Wednesday.

Diego Costa
Diego Costa won two Premier League titles in three years at Chelsea but left the club in bitter circumstances.

But it really should be about Morata and his return to his home city as a player now proving his calibre as a top striker.

Morata left Real in July because he could never be certain of making Zinedine Zidane's starting lineup.

He started just 14 games in La Liga last season, with 12 further appearances from the bench, but still contributed 15 goals and five assists as Real ended the season as champions.

In the Champions League, he started just one of Real's 13 games on the way to retaining the trophy against Juventus in Cardiff in June, with eight appearances from the bench, scoring three goals along the way.

But despite his impressive goals-to-games ratio, Morata was always going to be the fall guy when the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Isco, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio have to be shoe-horned into the team.

Morata's appearance against Stoke at the weekend was, remarkably, only the 54th top-flight league start in his career, so he is still relatively inexperienced for a player who is approaching his 25th birthday next month.

His lack of games at the highest level and the perception of him lacking the absolute quality to be a regular in a team with aspirations of winning the Champions League were perhaps reasons why Chelsea and United both looked primarily at Lukaku.

Chelsea and United also spent months watching and assessing Torino and Italy forward Andrea Belotti, who has even less high-level experience that Morata.

But so far, Morata has confounded the sceptics by making such an impressive start to life at Chelsea.

Alvaro Morata has scored six Premier League goals for Chelsea in as many appearances since joining from Real Madrid.

He has had to cope with being the No. 9 and the player carrying the heaviest goal-scoring burden, at the same time as being the subject of comparisons to Costa -- is he as tough as his Spain teammate, does he have Costa's ruthless edge, can he deliver the title with his goals as Costa did, twice?

Morata has also had to deal with the reality of being second choice and overcome the psychological challenge which that would pose, yet perhaps his time at Real prepared him perfectly for that battle.

Nobody at Real was ever prepared to say that Morata was good enough to be the main man, so his opportunities were always limited and dished out because somebody else was either injured or in need of a rest.

He is accustomed to fighting for the chance to prove people wrong, though, and he is doing that in some style at Chelsea.

Morata sits alongside Lukaku and Sergio Aguero at the top of Premier League scoring charts with six and he will face Atletico in the form of his life.

It may all be about Costa, the pantomime villain, but that is probably how Morata will like it.

He can head back to Madrid and focus purely on extending his goal-scoring form on the pitch and, by doing so, show everybody at Real that he may actually have been worth more of a chance when he was at the Bernabeu.

Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_

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