Kevin Palmer: 'PFA Team of the Year is taking shape - and an Irishman looks likely to make the cut'
England's professional footballers have received their forms for the PFA Player of the Year awards, with no outstanding candidate emerging so far in a Premier League season loaded with impressive performances.
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah and Manchester City's Kevin de Bruyne were the outstanding candidates for the award last season, with the duo comfortably ahead of their rivals as the best two players in the Premier League.
While Salah is a strong contender to retain the PFA prize he won last April, this could be a season when a defender is handed the most prestigious individual prize in the English game for the first time since Chelsea captain John Terry picked up the award in 2004.
England's top players will also be asked to pick their Premier League Team of the Year when they submit their nomination forms and here is the Independent.ie verdict on who deserves to be included at this point of the campaign.
David de Gea (Manchester United)
His sensational performance in United's win against Tottenham at Wembley last month was a reminder of the brilliance this Spanish goalkeeper has brought to the Premier League.
Doubts over his future linger as he continues to stall over a new deal at Old Trafford, with his value continuing to soar after he bounced back from shaky performances for Spain at last summer's World Cup finals.
Matt Doherty (Wolves)
This Irishman has to be a strong contender to win a place in the PFA Team of the Year after an outstanding run of form in the Wolves defensive line.
Consistent and reliable in defence, he is a real threat bursting forward and should be a huge asset for new Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy in 2019.
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
The bookies favourite to win the top PFA prize has had an outstanding season at the heart of the Liverpool defence, with his presence steadying a back line that looked unstable prior to his £75m arrival from Southampton in January 2018.
Ireland's Paul McGrath and Chelsea's John Terry are among the defenders who have won the PFA Player of the Year prize during the Premier League era and van Dijk could join that list of defensive greats.
Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham)
Due to a clause in his contract, this powerhouse defender could leave Tottenham for just £25m unless the club can convince him to sign a new contract before next summer and they would be mad to allow him to leave.
Back in favour with Mauricio Pochettino after being left on the bench at the back end of last season, he has proved his worth as one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League.
Andy Robertson (Liverpool)
Robertson's fitness could be a crucial factor in Liverpool's title challenge, with Jurgen Klopp's second string options in the full-back positions proving themselves to be sub-standard when compared to this impressive Scot.
Klopp deserves credit for getting the best out of this dynamic defender who has moved his game up several levels since his move to Anfield from Hull in the summer of 2017.
Fernandinho (Manchester City)
Fernandinho's importance to the Manchester City side was highlighted when he was absent from key games over Christmas and they were beaten by Crystal Palace and Leicester.
He will toast his 34th birthday next summer and City boss Pep Guardiola has already suggested that the club need to consider finding a replacement for this dynamic unsung hero.
Son Heung-min (Tottenham)
One of the most valuable players in the Premier League has been a star turn for Tottenham despite playing in two international tournaments for South Korea this season.
With a tireless worth ethic and a wonderful attacking verve, Son is a hero for Spurs fans and has proved his worth against all Premier League opponents in a season that has seen him score 10 goals and provide five assists.
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
This flying winger has scored ten Premier League goals and provided nine assists for team-mates in a sparkling season that has seen his growing maturity move to another level.
Sterling has improved year after year under Pep Guardiola's watch, with his consistency levels ensuring he is now among the top performers in the English game.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
After accepting he would not be allowed to leave Chelsea last summer, Hazard impressed in the first half of this season with goals and man-of-the-match displays aplenty.
His consistency levels have dipped a little in recent weeks, but few would argue that the 2014/15 PFA Player of the Year is one of the best players in the English top flight.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Last season's PFA Player of the Year will be a leading candidate to win the award once again if he can continue to lead the scoring charts and help to guide Liverpool towards the club's first Premier League title in 29 years.
He has not always been at his best this season, but has still scored plenty of goals and led the charge for Jurgen Klopp's side.
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
This Argentine goal-getter is now in eighth place on the all-time Premier League charts after his hat-trick against Arsenal last weekend took his tally to 157 for City.
A goal poacher who has added a potent worth ethic to his game working under Pep Guardiola, he is the complete striker.