Tottenham legend: Chelsea defender becoming a leader, he could replace John Terry

Cesar Azpilicueta has become a leader at Chelsea, according to Garth Crooks

Cesar Azpilicueta is becoming one of Antonio Conte’s most-important leaders at Chelsea, according to Tottenham legend Garth Crooks.

The Spain international was heavily praised for his performance in the west London side’s 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon.

Azpilicueta picked out Diego Costa with a superb cross as the former Atletico Madrid striker managed to net a first-half winner in south east London.

The ex-Marseille defender helped Chelsea keep their third successive clean sheet to leave Antonio Conte’s side clear at the top of the Premier League table.

The 27-year-old has managed to establish an impressive centre-half partnership with Gary Cahill and David Luiz as part of Conte’s back-three in recent months.

And Crooks suggested that John Terry’s days at Chelsea are numbered as a result of Azpilicueta’s rise to prominence at Stamford Bridge.

“Four of Chelsea’s last five wins have been by 1-0 scorelines. What does that tell us? Well, as far as I am concerned it tells me that Chelsea’s back five are in imperious form. However, I have singled out Cesar Azpilicueta for special praise this week,” Crooks told BBC Sport.

“His overall contribution to the team has steadily grown with every game. It was the Spaniard’s wonderfully timed cross that split Palace’s defence, marooned goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and invited Diego Costa to attack the gift. While in defence, alongside Gary Cahill and David Luiz, he looks commanding.

“He is one of a number of potential leaders being groomed by manager Antonio Conte at the moment, which would signal that John Terry’s work at Stamford Bridge is now done.”

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Chelsea have won their last 11 Premier League games since a 3-0 loss to title rivals Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in September.

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