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Ranieri admits Leicester chairman is unhappy

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What a difference a year makes.

[ MORE: Mourinho’s alternative facts

This time last year Leicester City were battling away at the top of the Premier League table and would obviously end up winning the PL in one of the biggest shocks in sporting history.

Fast-forward 12 months and Claudio Ranieri‘s side are in dire form and sit just five points above the relegation zone following their 3-0 pummeling at Southampton last Sunday.

Speaking ahead of their FA Cup fourth round clash with second-tier Derby County, who are also fierce local rivals to the Foxes, Ranieri admitted chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is not happy with their performances this season.

“My chairman said 40 points, 40 points please, then after if something happens it’s okay – but 40 points,” Ranieri said. “Of course he is not happy, it is normal, he is the chairman. But he knows very well my ambition, maybe more than him. For me every match is important.”

With 21 points on the board after 22 games, that means Ranieri’s men need 19 more points from the remaining 16 games to reach the magic 40-point marker and secure their lucrative status in the PL.

Their two-legged UEFA Champions League Round of 16 clash against Sevilla will take center stage next month, but with the UCL group stage distracting Leicester throughout the early months of the 2016-17 campaign Ranieri’s side are slipping closer towards a relegation battle and have yet to win away from home in the Premier League this season.

Looking at their next six Premier League games they have trips to Burnley and Swansea City, then a home game against Hull City. All of those games are now massive encounters. If Leicester lose those three matches to teams around them and fall to Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal in their three other PL encounters coming up, then all of a sudden they’re in great danger of getting nowhere near the 40-point marker.

Leicester need another six wins to all but guarantee survival in the PL next season. Baring in mind they’ve only won five games from 22 so far this season the situation facing the reigning champions becomes a little more daunting when you look at the road ahead.

Much has been made about N'Golo Kante‘s exit and the impact that’s had on Leicester but apart from that loss they’ve got the same team which won the title last season. The Foxes have also spent close to $100 million on new players, many of which have yet to find their feet in the Premier League.

It’s easy to see why Leicester’s chairman is concerned.

UEFA: Wales in trouble; Spain dominates; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear at the top midway through qualifying.

Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.

Dele Alli to miss next three European matches, UCL or UEL

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Tottenham Hotspur is primed to qualify for a second-straight UEFA Champions League campaign this year, and will have to start that sophomore run without Dele Alli.

The 20-year-old playmaker has banned for his next three matches. If Spurs finish fourth, that would mean both qualifying matches and an additional match.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ]

If they finish higher, Dele will miss the first three group stage matches.

Dele was shown red for a tackle on Brecht Dejaegere in Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Gent in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, as Tottenham left the tournament.

Men in Blazers podcast: Man City-Liverpool review, USMNT preview

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Rog and Davo recap the Top Four battle between Manchester City and Liverpool, ask (again) whether it’s time for Arsene to go, and break down two of the most important USMNT games in modern history.

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