The 2014 PFA Awards will, as usual, attract the great and the good of the English football world.
Grosvenor House in London is the venue for the 41st edition of the awards where six of the best players in the English Premier League will do battle on Sunday evening to become Players' Player of the Year.
Each of the candidates are worthy contenders but there can only be one winner. Let’s take a look at a prediction for the final order of the voting.
Sixth: Adam Lallana
It’s fair to suggest that Adam Lallana has been at the forefront of something of a renaissance down on the south coast.
WhoScored.com detail his ability across the season:
The continued high level of performance has meant England caps are a natural progression and perhaps Lallana only suffers in such esteemed company by virtue of not playing for one of the very top teams in the league.
Fifth: Daniel Sturridge
Daniel Sturridge makes up one-third of a trio of Liverpool players in contention for the main award.
With 20 goals to his name allied to a string of top-class individual performances, he is fully deserving of being in such esteemed company.
Brendan Rodgers has managed to get the best out of a player who struggled to impose himself at Chelsea and Manchester City. Per Mike Walters of the Daily Mirror, Sturridge himself noted:
It was difficult for me at Manchester City as a young player aged 18 or 19, with all the money they have. Realistically, you look back and they only have Micah Richards from the academy playing for the club's first team—everyone else has been signed by Man City, so I feel I made the right decision leaving there.
At first, it was a matter of learning from the likes of Didier [Drogba], and I thought I would get my opportunity sooner, but they didn't believe in me as a centre-forward. They always said, 'You're not a centre-forward, you're a winger'—that's how they saw me, but that hurt me because I've played down the middle all my life.
With the help of Suarez, Liverpool have certainly seen just how devastating Sturridge can be down the middle.
High on confidence, England may well reap the rewards of his successful season at club level.
Fourth: Yaya Toure
Scoring 18 goals from a central midfield position, per BBC Sport, is almost unheard of, but then Yaya Toure isn’t your average defensive midfielder.
Eyebrows were raised when he swapped Barcelona for the blue half of Manchester, but there is no doubting how vital a cog the giant Ivorian has been at the heart of the Manchester City midfield ever since.
Jamie Redknapp identified the players’ strengths some while back for the Daily Mail:
Big Yaya Toure is some athlete. Do not be fooled by his huge frame.
When he switches into top gear, that package of strength and power takes some stopping. Ask Nemanja Vidic who is no slouch.
At 30 years old time is against him now, but like a decent wine, Toure improves with age.
That he is the only representative for the award from a City side replete with stars speaks volumes.
Third: Eden Hazard
Chelsea’s Eden Hazard continues to delight with moments of great skill and panache.
Not the most prolific in terms of goals scored in the list (14 goals in 33 appearances per WhoScored), Hazard’s all-round contributions are what give him a great chance of landing the award.
Jose Mourinho's sides are generally regarded as wonderful defensive units, and Hazard might often be considered a luxury player in such a team.
However, it is his strong work ethic that means a starting berth for the Blues is always a given for the Belgian when he is fit.
The Portuguese, never one to mince his words, noted via Jeremy Wilson of the Daily Telegraph that “For Hazard to arrive in March without one single [Player of the Month] award makes me laugh.”
Per Goal.com, Mourinho was even more unequivocal:
Does he have the capacity to reach the level of a Messi or Cristiano? Now I say yes, because his evolution is great.
He has time to become a great, great player and arrive where they are – he's 23, and Cristiano is 28, Messi 26 – so there is space for further evolution, and there's a great ambition in him.
High praise indeed.
Whilst there is no doubting Hazard’s talent, this year’s award comes just a little too soon for him.
Second: Steven Gerrard
In any other year, Liverpool’s captain-fantastic Steven Gerrard would, you suspect, be a worthy winner of the award.
An award he has won once before in 2006, a season where his heroics in the FA Cup Final against West Ham no doubt contributed to his success.
As England captain, too, his influence at all levels of the game is obvious, and he continues to lead by example.
Perhaps not as mobile as he used to be, Gerrard still has the power to influence the game from his position as a regista at the base of a midfield diamond.
Thirteen goals and 10 assists, per WhoScored, is a fine return and if Suarez were to miss out, then Gerrard should be given the accolade once more.
First: Luis Suarez
The turnaround in fortunes for the Uruguayan has been marked to say the least.
If anyone had suggested at that point in time that Suarez would even be a contender for a Player of the Year award, let alone win it just 12 months later, they would likely have been met with howls of derision.
But Suarez more than deserves the accolade from his fellow professionals.
Given that he missed the first six games of this season and therefore wasn’t available for selection until mid-September, 30 goals and counting is a frankly astonishing total.
Per BBC Sport, Suarez is 10 ahead of his nearest rival, team-mate Sturridge, a youngster who has no doubt learned from Suarez’s on-field excellence.
It’s only the seventh time that a Premier League striker has hit 30 goals in a season, per Simon Rice of The Independent, and only the second time that the total has been reached without a single penalty being included in the total.
Andy Cole in 1993/94 for Newcastle United is the only other player in those seven that achieved the feat without the need for a spot-kick. With 34 goals, Cole still holds the record with Alan Shearer (Blackburn 1995/96), and Suarez still has three games left to equal or beat the mark.
Arguably, his stats will stand the test of time, given they are being achieved against a back drop of six games less than his contemporaries.
But Luis Suarez is not just about goals. Via Andy Hunter of The Guardian, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers notes:
I wouldn't have thought there are any reasons against him [winning the PFA award] this year.
I think he was well on the way to winning it last season when he had that unfortunate incident towards the end, which may have curtailed that, but this year he has been a model of brilliance.
On the pitch his quality has never been questioned and if anything he has improved on that level this year.
As Liverpool stand on the verge of winning their first title in a quarter of a century, Luis Suarez has written his name right across their campaign.
It would be a fitting end to his rehabilitation and a nice postscript to Liverpool’s season if he were to be crowned Players' Player of the Year on Sunday.
With the Reds back in the Champions League, Suarez can spearhead the charge for further glories next season and realise all of his professional ambitions whilst at Anfield.
The best player in the league, at the best club. Even if Real Madrid and others are still circling like vultures, there's no need for Suarez to be anywhere else.
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