JACKSONVILLE, FL – FEBRUARY 09: Forward Emma Mitchell #18 of Scotland and defender Ali Krieger #11 of the U.S. battle for the ball during the first half at EverBank Field on February 9, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida. At half time the United States lead Scotland 2-0.(Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
Last season Leicester City vs. Manchester City was a clash between two rivals fighting for the Premier League title.
This season? Not so much.
[ MORE: Ranking the PL superstars ]
Leicester host Man City on Saturday at the King Power Stadium (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com), with the reigning champs embroiled in a relegation battle with just three wins from their 14 PL games this season.
As for City, Pep Guardiola is finding the Premier League a little tougher to handle than Spain and Germany early on with City winning just three of their last eight games in the Premier League but they’re still sitting just four points off top spot. That said, City has lost to both Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea already and their status as preseason title favorites is already being severely questioned.
For Leicester, their problems are worse than those at Man City.
There are multiple issues at play which could explain their stunning drop-off compared to last season. After 14 games this season the Foxes have 13 points. At the same point of their incredible title-winning campaign in 2015-16 they had 29 points and were joint-top of the table with Manchester City who actually have one more point this season than they had at this stage last season.
Back to Leicester and right now they are just two points off the relegation zone and have lost three of their last four games. Ranieri is very worried about relegation, as his recent comments in press conferences show.
“This moment is not the right moment for us. We wanted to get points here but of course it was a relegation battle, they won, well done to them,” Ranieri said after the defeat at Sunderland. “I said two, three weeks ago, always I look behind me. We are in the battle of relegation. For this reason we must stay calm, together and continue to work hard.”
At least Ranieri knows it, but how has it got to this point with Leicester breezing through their UCL group and into the knockout stages?
The loss of N'Golo Kante in midfield has been huge for Leicester with the French international midfielder already proving indispensable for Chelsea this season as he breaks play up, shields the back four and sets the tempo of the game for his team. Kante’s departure has left a huge hole in Leicester’s midfield but they’ve been equally hit just as hard with a lack of goals from Jamie Vardy who has scored just twice in the PL and Riyad Mahrez has suffered from a lack of creativity.
Mahrez set up 22 goalscoring chances for Vardy last season. This season the duo have combined just once. Maybe that is because Ranieri has been chopping and changing his team so much to cope with the demands of the UCL and PL, with Mahrez and Vardy often preferred for European action, but there’s no doubting that their level has dropped off and that’s happened across Leicester’s entire squad.
When you look at Leicester’s defensive displays, not much has changed but perhaps the rub of the green is going against them and they are falling behind to opponents extremely often which is making them chase the game and they’re getting out of their comfort zone. Simply put: Leicester isn’t doing what it is best at.
Ranieri knows it and said as much after their latest defeat at Sunderland which has put them further in trouble with plenty of tough games on the horizon.
“It is difficult to say what we miss. We miss everything,” Ranieri said.
In the latest PST Extra Jenna Corrado and I discuss the recent poor form of both Leicester and Man City and if fans of both teams should be worried heading into this big match on Saturday.
Click play on the video above to see us break it down.
Gianni Infantino wants to freshen things up a bit.
The new president of FIFA has been steadfast in his desire to increase the number of teams participating at a World Cup to 48.
[ MORE: Ranking the PL superstars ]
After all it was a huge part of his presidential mandate which got plenty of the smaller nations of the soccer world on board to vote for him, and reports from AFP are now circulating that Infantino and key figured at FIFA have indeed backed a 48-team World Cup from 2026 onwards.
Members of the FIFA Council had previously received outlines of four proposed formats, including staying with a 32-team World Cup, but it is believed Infantino wants a 48-team World Cup and the decision could be made next month at a FIFA Council meeting.
It is also being widely reported that Infantino wants to try something new and have 16 groups with three teams in each. It is also believed the top two teams would go through from each group to a Round of 32 knockout stage and then to a Round of 16 and so on.
On the face of it, that doesn’t seem too bad an idea.
It would certainly eliminate some of the boring third group games we have endured at most World Cups recently as the two teams going through to the last 16 are usually sewn up by that point and the two other teams are left around with another game to play. However, it will be intriguing to see how the game schedule is set up in the three team group scenario.
The cynical folks out there suggest that Infantino is merely trying to ramp up more revenue from increasing the number of teams from 32 to 48 but when you look at it, the number of games would actually stay the same if there were 16 groups with three teams in each.
Think about it: more upset stories, more first-time qualifiers and more riding on each of the two group games for each team before heading straight to the knockout rounds.
RB Leipzig currently sits top of the Bundesliga and they’ve taken the German soccer scene by storm.
[ MORE: Ranking the PL superstars ]
They’ve also upset plenty of traditionalists in Germany with the Red Bull energy drink company bankrolling their rise through the German leagues and after being founded in 2009, just seven years later they are top of the Bundesliga, three points clear of Bayern Munich after 13 games of the season.
Now, Leipzig may have upset Cristiano Ronald and Lionel Messi.
Speaking to the Associated Press, the man who has been plotting Leipzig’s success since 2012, sporting director Ralf Rangnick, had the following to say about Messi and Ronaldo hypothetically signing for Leipzig.
“It would be absurd to think that it could work with them here,” Rangnick said. “They are both too old and too expensive.”
Ronaldo is 32 and Messi is 29 and both seem to have at least five or more years left in the tank for Real and Barca respectively.
However, Rangnick’s comments are perhaps more about the make up of Leipzig’s team which is the youngest in the Bundesliga and as the architect of this squad he has purposefully constructed a strong youth element which has helped his side rise from the fourth division and up into the German top-flight.
RB Leipzig is widely disliked in Germany for being owned by Red Bull who have spent huge sums of money, and now they’ve just blown their chance of ever signing Ronaldo or Messi.
Oh wait, they didn’t want them anyway…
Huw Jenkins has been with Swansea City through the good times and the bad.
He is blaming himself for the recent bad spell.
[ MORE: Ranking the PL superstars ]
The long-time chairman of the Swans — Jenkins was part of a consortium which saved the south Wales club back in 2002 when it was teetering on the brink of extinction — has been at the forefront of their incredible rise from the fourth-tier to the Premier League plus becoming League Cup winners and also competing in the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League.
Yet, this season Swansea’s progress has stalled as they currently sit two points adrift at the foot of the Premier League table and three points from safety with a massive relegation six-points against Sunderland at the Liberty Stadium coming up this Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).
Speaking about their struggles, Jenkins put the blame squarely on his shoulders.
“I fully understand their feelings, being a supporter myself,” Jenkins said. “When things don’t go well somebody has to take the blame and I fully accept the responsibility. But let’s not forget there’s a long way to go this season, and we’ve got a lot of choices to make between now and then to make sure we survive in this league.”
The local businessman has told it like it is, as well as admiting some errors with player recruitment over the summer as both Andre Ayew and Ashley Williams were allowed to leave and you easily argue they weren’t sufficiently replaced at the Liberty Stadium.
All of this has led to current manager Bob Bradley (he replaced Italian coach Francesco Guidolin after the Swans picks up just four points from their opening seven games of the season) reportedly already being under pressure, as a report in the Daily Telegraph suggested that a huge review is currently taking place at the request of American owners Steve Kaplan and Jason Levein who took sole control of the club in July.
Jenkins, who has been left in control of day-to-day matters by Kaplan and Levein, has also been taking plenty of stick from the fans for selling 8.2 percent of his 13.2 percent stake in the club which allowed the Americans to take their holdings up to 68 percent and take full ownership of the club. The local businessman made himself just over $10 million in the process which angered many. All is not well on and off the pitch in south Wales right now.
With Bradley’s team conceding 19 goals in his seven PL games in charge so far, the obvious area where they have to improve is in central defense. If given time, there’s no doubt Bradley can improve that but the most concerning thing for the Swans is the quality of players, especially defenders, they currently possess.
Until that changes (i.e. acquistions in the January transfer window) then Bradley’s hands are tied.
Jenkins believes the club will be able to spend big in the upcoming transfer window and boy will Swansea need to do some shrewd, and extensive, business if they’re going to drag themselves out of trouble and up the Premier League table.
The good news out of all of this is the next six games are pivotal in their season. Between now and Jan. 2 Bradley’s side face Sunderland, West Ham and Bournemouth at home, plus have trips to West Brom, Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace. All of those games are against direct relegation rivals and quite simply the Swans must win at least three or four to give themselves a fighting chance of staying up.