The Professional Footballers' Association will hand out their Young Player of the Year award during a ceremony in London this Sunday, and this year's group of nominees is one of the strongest the contest has ever seen.
Eden Hazard and Daniel Sturridge headline a group of six players who could all make a case for winning the award, and phenomenal youngsters such as Adnan Januzaj and Romelu Lukaku could have been worthy winners in any other year but didn't even make the final cut in 2014.
Here's the list of the six nominees, along with a few key statistics and their latest odds of winning the award come Sunday, per oddschecker.com:
|Eden Hazard||Chelsea||1-5||Voted MotM 7 times|
|Daniel Sturridge||Liverpool||11-4||20 total goals|
|Raheem Sterling||Liverpool||14-1||1.4 tackles/match as an attacker|
|Ross Barkley||Everton||29-1||84.6 percent pass completion|
|Aaron Ramsey||Arsenal||59-1||11 goals/9 assists in 23 starts|
|Luke Shaw||Southampton||99-1||Was dribbled just 0.6 times/match|
All statistics used are courtesy of WhoScored.com.
Hazard and Sturridge are both nominated for the overall Player of the Year award as well, with both players having enjoyed phenomenal campaigns with their respective teams, Chelsea and Liverpool.
Sturridge has partnered with Luis Suarez in giving the Reds one of the most impressive attacking units in all of Europe, and as shared by Kopsource's Dominic Campbell, the duo is knocking on the doors of history:
Three games for Suarez and Sturridge to score four goals to become the best premier league partnership in history.— Dominic Campbell (@dom_campbell) April 20, 2014
But the success of Suarez could very well work against the talented forward, as the Uruguayan is everyone's favourite to be voted as best overall player. In the event of that happening, it could hamper Sturridge's chances of beating out some of his rivals in the youngsters' category.
Age will also come into play. Players 23 years old and younger at the start of the season are eligible for the award, a mark Sturridge beat by three weeks. Several fans and pundits don't think it's fair for a 24-year-old to be competition for players still in their teens, with the Sun amongst them:
And isn't Adnan Januzaj (19) a better candidate than Daniel Sturridge (24) and injury-plagued Aaron Ramsey for Young Player of the Year?— The Sun - Football (@TheSunFootball) April 18, 2014
Speaking of Ramsey, his 23 total starts this season are more than enough for analysts to look past his long spell on the sidelines with a thigh injury, and there is no denying the impact the Welshman had on his team this season.
A healthy Ramsey could have challenged Hazard and Sturridge for the award, but this award shouldn't concern itself with hypotheticals. And it won't—Ramsey can look back on a fantastic campaign that saw him establish himself as the future of Arsenal's midfield, but he won't be leaving the Grosvenor House Hotel with the award on Sunday.
Who should win the Young Player of the Year award?
No one helped his transfer value more than Luke Shaw this season, but Ross Barkley will be a close second. Both youngsters put themselves on the map in 2013-14 and could be moving to bigger clubs sooner rather than later.
They could also be joining Raheem Sterling in Brazil as members of the English national team this summer, the ultimate highlight to excellent campaigns for each of these players.
But realistically speaking, only one player can win this award. While the other five nominees established themselves as potential future superstars of the game, 2013-14 saw Eden Hazard transform himself into one of the very best in the world.
With the exception of Suarez, no single player in the Premier League impacted his team as much as Hazard did. And that's not an empty statement—just look at this statistic, courtesy of Squawka:
E.Hazard has created more EPL chances (87) this season than Liverpool duo D.Sturridge & R.Sterling combined (67). pic.twitter.com/UfrxDavvdR— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 18, 2014
The Times' Oliver Kay is one of many believing Hazard is the safest bet to win the award on Sunday:
Hazard the best "Young Player" contender in my opinion, but plain daft that te award is open up to age 24. Milner won it in his 8th season.— Oliver Kay (@OliverKayTimes) April 18, 2014
Sturridge's scoring exploits this season make him a worthy challenger, but his age and the insane season strike partner Suarez had will hurt his chances.
Hazard, meanwhile, has had a seemingly flawless campaign and is the odds-on favourite to see his season rewarded with the 2014 Young Player of the Year Award, keeping the trophy in London for the fourth consecutive year.