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Kante: Eyes on the prize

N’Golo Kante has paid tribute to his team-mates after being named PFA Player of the Year, and the Frenchman says we must treat every game between now and the end of the season like a final if we are to reach our objectives, starting at home to Southampton tonight.

Kante picked up his prize at a ceremony in London on Sunday night following a wonderful first season at Stamford Bridge, with the energetic midfielder featuring in all but one of our Premier League matches up until now and playing a pivotal role in our trophy pursuit due to his ability to break up play and use the ball intelligently.

The 26-year-old, who was one of four Chelsea players named in the PFA Team of the Season last week, came ahead of team-mate Eden Hazard in the voting, and he spoke of his pride at being honoured by his peers.

‘It’s special because it’s our opponents who have chosen me as player of the year,’ said Kante. ‘I think this is a reward for this season and last season, and I want to thank everyone who voted for me to be part of the Team of the Season and to get this award, it means a lot to me.

‘I’m happy for the people who came to celebrate the award with me. My family and friends know where I started, so to be here in the Premier League and be named Player of the Year we have to enjoy it, and they are happy for me.’

When Kante returned to training at Cobham yesterday morning he was given a warm welcome by his team-mates. The quiet and unassuming midfielder, who revealed his own vote for the award went to Liverpool's Sadio Mane, is quick to stress the appreciation is mutual.

‘They gave me a round of applause and that’s very important because without them I couldn’t receive this award,’ he said.

‘We are having a good season together and I hope we can achieve something bigger than this award because I think football is about sticking together, and if we can win the league or win the cup it will be amazing for the team, for the club and for the fans.’

It was a memorable weekend for Kante, who collected his individual accolade a day after helping Antonio Conte’s side overcome Tottenham at Wembley to reach our first FA Cup final since 2012.

Attention now switches back to the Premier League, and tonight’s huge game against Southampton at the Bridge. A victory would take us seven points clear of Tottenham, who play Crystal Palace away tomorrow.

‘We had to bounce back after our defeat in Manchester and we played a very good game against Tottenham, it was my first time playing at Wembley,’ Kante added.

‘Now we have to focus until the end of the season, there are six games left and we have to give our best to win the league. We have to win a minimum of five and every game is like a final.

‘It’s always better to play in front of our fans because their support helps us a lot so I think it’s an advantage to have four games at home and two away, but we have to win them.

‘We play tonight’s game after a very short period, just two full days, but we have a strong squad and we can change players and prepare very well, it’s not a problem.’