LONDON • Chelsea will aim to resume their steady march towards the English Premier League title after an international break in which the focus was on the future of Eden Hazard.
The 26-year-old Belgian star sat out Chelsea's last game at Stoke City as well as Belgium's fixtures during the recess with a calf problem but should return for the visit of Crystal Palace to Stamford Bridge today.
The forward, though, has still found himself the centre of attention following reports this week he is a target for Real Madrid.
Hazard has been one of the main factors in Chelsea's dominance this season - Antonio Conte's side face Palace sitting 10 points clear, with 10 games remaining - after rediscovering the form he showed in the 2015 title triumph.
Chelsea are determined to hold on to the player but the interest from Spain has provided an unwanted distraction as Conte attempts to maintain his team's concentration during the run-in.
There has been no indication Hazard wants to leave and Conte will expect the player's response against a much-improved Palace to underline his commitment to remaining at Stamford Bridge.
The return of striker Diego Costa, who missed Spain's meeting with France because of an ankle injury, will also help Conte's side pick up from where they left off before the break.
The victory at Stoke was secured by a late goal from Gary Cahill that came as a blow to second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who have been hoping to capitalise on any slips made by Conte's side.
With an FA Cup semi-final meeting with Tottenham also looming at the end of this month, Conte remains on course for a league and Cup double in his first season in English football after leaving the post of Italy coach last summer.
A few weeks ago, the visit of Palace would have been viewed as a routine three points for the Blues.
However, Palace have shown significant signs of improvement recently with manager Sam Allardyce confident he has plugged the defensive holes that contributed to the team's fall into the bottom three.
Four victories in the last six games - each secured on the back of a clean sheet - have moved Allardyce's side four points and two places clear of the relegation zone.
New signings Mamadou Sakho and Luka Milivojevic have been credited with adding steel to the side.
Wilfried Zaha's form has helped reignite the debate about the winger's decision to reject England, despite winning two caps in friendly internationals, and commit himself to Ivory Coast.
CHELSEA V CRYSTAL PALACE
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