It was against Leicester City it started, Eden Hazard’s list of 18 goals this season that helped him win the PFA Player of the Year award on Sunday.
In our first home game of the season the Belgian collected the ball from Cesc Fabregas out on the left and as so many times, darted into the area. His low shot bear Kasper Schmeichel via a deflection and Chelsea won 2-0.
The Hazard goals have continued to light-up the championship challenge right up to our most recent winner at home to Manchester United. A draw at Arsenal maintained a 10-point lead that we hope to extend tonight in the East Midlands.
Ahead of the game, Hazard’s colleagues have been discussing his Player of the Year award with the official Chelsea website.
John Terry is the club’s one previous winner of the PFA vote, back in 2004/05, the first year he lifted the Premier League trophy.
‘It is a great individual honour and one of the best, being voted by your fellow professionals who you play against,’ says Terry.
‘Eden winning it above some great players is a big achievement. He has been excellent. As a whole Chelsea have been great and individually he has set the Premier League alight again. He did last year and won the Young Player and to do it again this season is exceptional. He is up there with Messi and Ronaldo for sure. He is young, hungry and he can only get better.’
Terry paid tribute to his team-mate’s outstanding consistency and his rare ability to ride challenges.
‘To maintain consistency first and foremost is to remain fit and he has had a couple of tackles this year where you are concerned, but he bounces back and he has everything - a great burst of pace, agility, he scores goals including a couple of headers and his tracking back has been superb.
‘He gets his body in front of the ball and glides past people and has that burst of pace to then get away. He is an exciting player and for us at the back, you give him the ball and you can relax for a bit.
‘Hopefully we can win the league so he can add that to the award too.’
Hazard’s fellow countryman Thibaut Courtois reports the winning of the award made the newspapers in Belgium.
‘But we all know he is a top player and expected him to win,’ he adds.
‘When he was very young I saw him with the national team. He was in France playing but we knew he had an extraordinary talent and he is still young, he can improve a lot and be the best in the world. He’s played a good season for us and hopefully we can finish it well now. Individual trophies are nice but every player most wants a team trophy like the Premier League.’
Petr Cech also expects the 24-year-old to improve further.
‘He is still a young player with talent and he keeps working and thinking about his game,’ says the goalkeeper, ‘and one of his qualities is he loves the game and doesn’t feel pressure.
‘He has been doing really well all season, scoring important goals and in terms of his work-rate he has been brilliant.
‘Everyone talks about his game going forward but he helps a lot coming back defending his full-back when he has to. That has made him an even more complete player and going forward he can make a win on his own and this is priceless for the team.
‘And with penalties he is a right pain for the goalkeeper because with his approach without any pressure he just waits and you cannot stay still because then even if he shots a yard away from you, you don’t have chance to save it.’
Gary Cahill emphasises just how difficult it is to maintain such a high standard throughout a campaign.
‘Players are not robots and to go out and play as well as he does every week is remarkable, especially playing at such a top level. The expectations are there and he has delivered from day one to now.
‘It is easy for us to see because we work with him so we know how good he is but for the other players who play against him to recognise how good he is, I’m sure Eddie will be chuffed with that.
‘He has turned so many games for us and is an exciting attacking player who fans pay their money to watch so he deserves everything he has got this season.’
Cahill made the PFA Team of the Year for a second year running, one of six Blues in this year’s selection and says he is extremely honoured. As our regular England international since St George’s Park opened, he is able to report on the facility where the Chelsea squad prepared yesterday and today for tonight’s game.
‘It is obviously modern, the pitches are fantastic, as are the facilities with the gym, the pool and the indoor pitch,’ says the defender.
‘It is huge. People say it is in the middle of nowhere but that is because of the massive amounts of land and loads and loads of pitches.
‘It is a focal point for football and they do a lot of coaching badges and many things there.
‘Where all the facilities are, on the side there is a hotel which is part of the complex. You are right on the doorstep. You can walk from there to the pitches.’