Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and N'Golo Kante head PFA Player of the Year contenders

PFA Player of the Year contenders
Image: PFA Player of the Year award - we look at the contenders

We look at the leading contenders to win this season's PFA Player of the Year award after Chelsea strengthened their grasp on the Premier League title.

Three of Antonio Conte's men unsurprisingly head Sky Bet's market on the award after they took another significant step towards lifting the trophy with Saturday's 3-1 victory over Arsenal.

However, the star men from the Blues' main rivals are not quite written off at this stage, with 14 games still to go to defend their nine-point lead and a wide-open battle for the Golden Boot on going.

In order of Sky Bet's odds, here's a look at the favourites for the award...

Eden Hazard - 9/4 with Sky Bet

It also comes as no surprise to see the man who lifted the PFA award last time Chelsea won the Premier League title considered favourite.

Eden Hazard scores Chelsea's second goal
Image: Eden Hazard scores Chelsea's second goal against Arsenal

Suggestions that the Belgian is back to his best are backed up by a haul of 10 goals so far this season, compared to 14 in 2014/15, but his assists stats are well down, with just three compared to nine two seasons back.

However, with his sublime goal against Arsenal likely to be fresh in the memory of voters, Hazard has been cut from 11/1 at the start of the season to his current price of 9/4.

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N'Golo Kante - 5/2 with Sky Bet

It comes as no coincidence that Kante is on course for a second successive Premier League title, with his screening work helping the Blues keep a league high 13 clean sheets.

Having more tackles per game than any other player in leading Leicester to the most unlikely of glories last season, the French defensive midfielder is back among the leaders in the category again.

Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli is challenged by Chelsea's N'Golo Kante
Image: N'Golo Kante has made the third most tackles this season

The importance of his presence was perfectly demonstrated on Saturday as Arsenal's creative players were restricted, while his opposite number Francis Coquelin produced an ineffective display.

His importance has not gone unnoticed by punters, attracting more interest than any other player in the market, prompting his starting price of 25/1 to plummet.

Diego Costa - 6/1 with Sky Bet

He may be unlikely to win clubman of the year but, with 15 goals and five assists, Costa trumps his team-mates in terms of goals and assists.

Diego Costa of Chelsea waves to fans after the Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on January 31
Image: Diego Costa was linked with leaving Chelsea in January

He is, however, also no longer the clear favourite for the Premier League Golden Boot, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexis Sanchez matching his tally, while Romelu Lukaku has leapfrogged the lot following his four-goal haul at the weekend.

The Brazilian-born Spain international is arguably the most vital single component in his side's title hopes, but his ability to rack up enemies quicker than friends has clearly been taken into account by the bookies.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic - 8/1 with Sky Bet

Manchester United's title hopes may be all but dead but that highlights how impressive Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been.

At 35 years old and in his first season in the Premier League, the Swedish star has racked up 15 goals despite United being the top-six's lowest scorers by some distance.

Indeed, only Jermain Defoe has scored a higher percentage of his side's goals this season.

Grander expectations naturally surrounded his Old Trafford arrival, but Champions League qualification and domestic cup glory would certainly represent progress for Jose Mourinho's side - with Ibrahimovic arguably deserving the majority of credit.

Dele Alli - 8/1 with Sky Bet

Tottenham's position as Chelsea's nearest rivals was consolidated at the weekend and it is the man who last inflicted defeat on the Blues that is also considered the main threat to their individual accolade hopes.

Dele Alli directs his looping header into the top corner of Thibaut Courtois' goal
Image: Dele Alli nods past Chelsea at White Hart Lane

The 20-year-old headed home a decisive brace at White Hart Lane to sink Antonio Conte's men, their only loss since September, although Spurs have failed to make further ground since due to back-to-back draws on the road.

If Mauricio Pochettino's men can close the gap, then Alli or Harry Kane (20/1) suddenly face a battle for favouritism, but the former MK Dons man will otherwise have to continue to add to his tally of 11 goals to stand a chance of improving on last season's PFA Young Player of the Year award.

Kevin De Bruyne - 11/1 with Sky Bet

Unlike Spurs, Manchester City did manage to make up ground when Chelsea drew at Liverpool, while Champions League football offers their stars an additional chance to impress.

Sergio Aguero celebrates Manchester City's second with Kevin De Bruyne
Image: Kevin De Bruyne has provided nine assists this season

However, with a 10-point gap to close and the shortlist being defined well before the business end of Europe's top competition, it looks a big ask for one of Pep Guardiola's men to land the award as they struggle to meet expectations.

De Bruyne is considered their leading contender as he tops the assist charts with nine, although a goal tally of four hardly aids his case.

Alexis Sanchez - 16/1 with Sky Bet

Having been directly involved in more goals than any other player this season, the Arsenal man can rightly feel aggrieved by sitting sixth in the betting.

That record sees him rated as the highest performer in Sky Sports Fantasy Football's points charts.

However, his hopes of individual accolades are undermined by another season of disappointment for Arsenal, who have slipped 12 points off the title pace following back-to-back losses.

The outsiders

Tottenham's top scorer Kane and their chief architect Christian Eriksen are given 20/1 and 33/1 chances, while Liverpool's attacking midfielders Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane have drifted out to 25/1 and 33/1 respectively amid their side's winless start to 2017.

The wold's most expensive player Paul Pogba is also 33/1, while leading scorer Romelu Lukaku is joined by Adam Lallana and David Silva on 40/1. Meanwhile, pre-season favourite Sergio Aguero has drifted out from 8/1 to 66/1 after being benched in successive games by Guardiola.

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