Reading manager Brian McDermott wary of Chelsea's Eden Hazard


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The Independent Football

Brian McDermott will come face to face with Eden Hazard for the first time tonight since he spotted the Chelsea star on a scouting mission for Reading.

Hazard lit up the Barclays Premier League last weekend when he set up both goals on debut in the Blues' 2-0 win over Wigan following his summer move from Lille.

The Belgian's exploits came as no surprise to McDermott, who five years ago scouted the player while on an assignment for the Royals.

Even as a 16-year-old, McDermott knew Hazard was destined for big things, but admits it would have been impossible to tempt him to swap the French club for a place in the Reading squad.

"You can't go to a place like Lille and say 'we'll take your best player'. It just doesn't happen," McDermott said.

"But I remember watching him. He was 16 and I thought he was a great talent then.

"He was phenomenal and everyone there knew at 16 what a talent he was going to be. He stood out like the proverbial sore thumb."

Some have expressed concern that opposition teams will try to kick Hazard out of the game, but McDermott thinks the midfielder will get adequate protection from officials in the English top flight.

"When I played you could kick people out of the league because that's how it was in those days," the Reading manager said.

"Now it is not like that, thank God. One tackle now and you get booked and that's why the flair players thrive."

While Chelsea eased to victory over Wigan, Reading had to work much harder in their first game of the season on Saturday.

The Berkshire club needed a 90th-minute equaliser from Adam Le Fondre to snatch a draw against Stoke at home.

Tonight's game will be much harder with the likes of Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar likely to feature for Chelsea, but Reading midfielder Mikele Leigertwood insists the visitors will attack from the off at Stamford Bridge.

"You can't go into any games fearing teams or sitting back. You have to attack and put teams under pressure and I'm sure we'll do that [tonight]," Leigertwood said.

"We want to give a good account of ourselves and go there and win, hopefully."


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