Manchester City will most likely win the Premier League this season. Tottenham is certainly out of the race, Arsenal and Liverpool have given themselves a lot to do, and it seems that Manchester United will present the sternest challenge. But what to make of Chelsea?

On the verge of crisis

For the early part of the season, it seemed as though they were on the verge of crisis. An opening-day loss to Burnley at Stamford Bridge - with two men sent off - was the first of three League defeats in their opening eight matches, alongside a Champions League hammering at the hands of Roma.

All this, against a backdrop of transfer window discontent, uncertainty over the manager's long-term future and rumours circulating around their best players courting the interest of Europe's leading clubs. Not to mention the Diego Costa saga.

Alvaro Morata scoring goals

Yet despite all this, English football's favourite crisis club finds itself in surprisingly good health as the holiday season approaches. It is now six wins from seven in the League, through to the knockout phase of the Champions League with a game to spare and into the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup. Alvaro Morata, their £70million man, is scoring goals, N'golo Kanté is running midfield and the defence has begun to look as secure as it has at any stage since last season's record-breaking 13-game winning streak.

But the crucial difference has been Eden Hazard.

Eden Hazard at the absolute peak of his confidence

Hazard's absence through injury from the early part of the season was perhaps the biggest factor in the Blues' slow start. The Belgian was absolutely magnificent against Newcastle United today, mesmeric in all he did and thoroughly deserving of his two goals.

He is a player at the absolute peak of his confidence. Hazard pulled off not one, but three separate nutmegs and never was his confidence more clearly illustrated than his outrageous 'panenka' penalty.

It is now eight goals in his last ten appearances for the 26-year-old and the feeling around Stamford Bridge is that this could become a breakthrough season for him.

Hazard's ability has never been in question, but as good as the 2014-15 Player of the Year has been for Chelsea over the last five seasons the general opinion has been that he is capable of so much more.

The signing of Morata has played a key role in Hazard's form this season. The pair has struck up a strong understanding, and alongside Cesc Fabregas some of Chelsea's link-up play this season has been breathtaking. Morata is an excellent player in his own right, but part of the reason his signature excited the fans in the way that, arguably, Romelu Lukaku's never could is the idea his intelligent movement and superior link-up play would help bring the best out of Hazard.

Hazard must start matching the best of the rest

It is about time Hazard started putting up the numbers that reflect his ability. Leaving aside the freakish talents of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Hazard must start matching the best of the rest. He should be producing more than he is. His target must be to match the figures the likes of Neymar, Gareth Bale, Antoine Griezmann and Robert Lewandowski are regularly producing, to name but a few. To emphasise the point, in five years at Chelsea Hazard has been out-scored by Theo Walcott three times. He needs to become a 25-goal-a-season player.

For as long as Chelsea have Hazard fit and firing they can never be completely ruled out of the title race.

Anything is possible with Antonio Conte's side, from the lurching disasters of José Mourinho's final few months in charge to the sublime surge to last season's championship. It is entirely possible that Chelsea will fade away and end up in a scrap for the top four this season, and it is equally plausible that they will push Manchester City to the very end for the top spot.

If it is to be the latter, so much depends on Hazard.