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Eden Hazard

Hazard & Kante's two-man battle for Player of the Year pushes Chelsea ever closer to title

21:39 GMT+3 08/04/2017
Eden Hazard Chelsea Bournemouth
While Diego Costa continues to misfire, his two team-mates are locked in a fascinating duel that is proving hugely beneficial to the Blues


Eden Hazard's stunning goal in Chelsea's 3-1 win over Bournemouth was a scintillating display of pace, skill and killer instinct but the through-ball was supplied by N'Golo Kante, thus perfectly illustrating why the pair are the only possible choices for this year's Player of the Year awards.

Relentless Chelsea see off Bournemouth

Kante, of course, is Chelsea's destroyer, as underlined by the fact that his assist was his first for the Blues, in what was his 30th appearance for the club. However, he is encouraged to get forward when he can in Antonio Conte's brilliant 3-4-3 formation, which not only brings the best out of the France midfielder but also Hazard. 

Thanks to the protection of Marcos Alonso and Nemanja Matic, Hazard has the license to go looking for space down the left-hand side whenever he chooses and it is telling that he has now matched his best ever goal return in the Premier League (14). 

It was his also his fourth goal in three games against Bournemouth, who are just one of many teams to fear Chelsea when they line up with the brilliant Belgian.

Kante was looking nailed on for Player of the Year but Hazard's man of the match-winning displays against Man City and Bournemouth have proven crucial in keeping Chelsea's title charge on track and put the winger right back in the picture. 

The fairest option might be to split the Player of the Year awards, which is what happened last season with Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez getting the nod from his fellow professionals while his team-mate Jamie Vardy was favoured by the footballer writers.

Chelsea's unwanted clean sheet record

Indeed, players and pundits will both have a say in who earns the awards and they have been left scratching their heads in recent weeks. 

Of course, Diego Costa looked like he would also be in the frame but he had another disappointing display against Bournemouth as his season fizzles out, his head perhaps turned by the colossal cash offer he received from the Chinese Super League in January.

The Spain international has gone four league games without a goal for the first time in his Chelsea career and he has only scored four times in 13 appearances in 2017. By contrast, Josh King, who netted for the hosts, has 10 goals to his name this year.

As he fades, Hazard becomes more important and, luckily for Conte, he has stepped it up, softening the impact of Costa's drop in form. Aside from his goal, Hazard produced moments of stunning wide play in the first and second half of the win at Bournemouth, getting close to assists for both Victor Moses and Costa. 

He was constantly on the shoulder for the opposition, with his genius ensuring that defenders don't get a moment's rest when they face him. 

Chelsea have many stars, but it is Hazard and Kante who are showing the highest standard of excellence at the club. David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta are consistent in their roles at the back, while Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso have also been key to the unstoppable points-winning machine that the Blues have become.

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However, while Chelsea's imminent title triumph will be a victory for team spirit, when awards season rolls around the individual excellence of the Blues' dynamic duo must not go unrecognised.

Seven points clear, with seven games remaining, Chelsea are almost certain to beat Tottenham's young and exciting side to the title. Indeed, the only outstanding issue is whether Hazard and Kante should be Player of the Year!