Messi and Hazard: Dribbling Ability

Without a shadow of a doubt, two of the best dribblers in the world are Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Real Madrid's Eden Hazard. It's no fluke that they both play for two of the biggest clubs in world soccer.

Their ability to hold onto the ball, take on opponents and more often than not score, are three of many qualities they possess and why they have remained at the top of the game throughout their careers. Not only do they know when to take players on, they know when to release the ball, which is an underrated quality soccer managers across the world love their star players to possess.

Both players will be facing each other at least twice this season, as they battle for the Spanish title. La Liga betting suggests it's Barcelona's title to lose even though they have started the season poorly, but with all of Real Madrid's new additions, including their new no.7 in Eden Hazard, Los Blancos will be breathing down their necks all the way.

Dribbling technique

A starting point for a successful dribble is to make sure you are aware of your surroundings before you have received the ball. If you watch Messi or Hazard, they scan to their left and right both before demanding the ball and while the ball is travelling to them.

This way, they recognise the main dangers, where they can turn and if they have to release the ball instantly and move in order to build another attack.

Upon receiving the ball, and all dangers are checked, it's important to see the gaps (if there are any) or whether or not to release the ball. Constant checking and making sure your head is up at all times is vital to a successful dribble or passage of play.

If it is safe to travel with the ball, you need to protect it. If you watch Messi and Hazard, both are great examples of using their bodies to get in between the ball and the defender. By using your strength to shield yourself in front of the ball, the defender will have little option but to retreat, make a foul or try and make a tackle from a different position, providing you, the attacker, with more room.

If you are able to protect the ball and travel with it at pace, this is a defender's nightmare. Travelling at pace forces the defender to play their hand, and with more speed, a lighter touch will often result in a free-kick in your favour. If the defender doesn't want to play the foul, this plays entirely into your favour, helping you to move further up the pitch or presenting yourself, or teammate, with a chance in on goal.

Both Messi and Hazard have natural talent, which can't be taught. However, their awareness can. The more you teach yourself to position your body and continuously look for danger, you are putting yourself in the best possible position to travel with the ball or find a teammate. Hazard will provide Messi with strong competition in the dribbling stats category due to his ability to find gaps and exploit them through his acceleration - surprisingly that was one of the few areas in La Liga that the Argentine didn't come top in last season.

The best chance is to put all of this into practice in training before a match. Working on your first touch upon receiving the ball and having the awareness to look up and check what is happening around you are qualities managers want from their attacking players. Work on your first touch, make sure you are looking around at all times, and exploit defenders with strength and pace.