Leicester City is hurtling towards relegation. Why?

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The “r word” is being mentioned a lot around the reigning Premier League champions.

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Rightly so, relegation is on the minds of everyone involved with Leicester City with 14 games of the Premier League season to go.

Leicester were blown away by Manchester United 3-0 on Sunday, leaving Claudio Ranieri‘s side just two points off the bottom of the table after four-straight defeats which has seen them concede 10 goals and score zero.

Speaking to Sky Sports following their humbling defeat against United, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel admitted Leicester is in freefall.

“We’re the reigning champions but quite frankly it’s been terrible,” Schmeichel said. “Every player is hurting. It’s not a situation that is comfortable. It’s time for everyone to stand up and be counted because if we don’t we’re going to end up getting relegated.”

Let’s break this down. What the heck is going on?

  • Leicester’s defense suddenly looks porous with Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs not looking anywhere near their levels of last season as they recorded shutout after shutout. They conceded 36 goals last season in 38 PL games. They’ve already conceded 41 in 24 games this season
  • They sold N'Golo Kante to Chelsea. His absence in midfield can’t be understated. Simple
  • Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have scored eight PL goals between them in the PL so far and are severely out of form. They had 41 PL goals between them last season
  • Prioritizing the UEFA Champions League over PL in the early months of the season was acceptable but those dropped points are now catching up with them
  • They have yet to win a Premier League game away from home this season
  • Distractions of the FA Cup and UCL Round of 16 are coming up in February, which will cause more rotation to the team and complicate the situation further

So, the main thing here is that there is plenty of reasons why the reigning champs are hurtling towards relegation at a rapid rate.

Ranieri has also had to deal with player unrest as Leonardo Ulloa was denied a move away on Deadline Day despite saying he wouldn’t play for the club again, and there are rumblings that he’s started to lose the dressing room less than 12 months after delivering one of the greatest title victories in sporting history. Ranieri is under pressure and defeat at Swansea in their next game, plus a first leg defeat to Sevilla in the UCL, will surely seal his fate.

Football is fickle, but results talk.

Leicester’s manager admitted recently that the chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was unhappy and demanded they get to 40 points as soon as possible. How on earth are Leicester going to do that?

Their next six PL games will define not only their season but also their foreseeable future. An away trip to in-form Swansea is next up, followed by hosting Liverpool and Hull City, then they travel to Arsenal and West Ham before hosting Stoke on Apr. 1.

By April Fools Day we will see if the reigning champs have been turned into fools and are embroiled in a relegation battle for the final six weeks of the 2016-17 season. If Leicester do go down then they’ll also face a huge financial crisis as they dished out massive contracts to players in the title-winning squad. Vardy and Mahrez are both on over $130,000 per week, while many more are close to the $100,000 mark.

Leicester won’t want to think about those implications right now but reality may have hit home: they pulled off an incredible feat when the perennial giants of English soccer had a down year last season, but when you look at their squad they’re probably where they should be. Midtable at best. That’s the harsh reality.

On the day Leicester lifted the PL trophy last season against Everton in May, I spoke to many Leicester fans in and around the King Power Stadium who said they didn’t care if the Foxes were relegated next season.

I wonder what they think now…

MLS Snapshot: NYCFC run rampant on Red Bulls, win 2-0

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The game in 100 words (or less): The only thing standing in the way of New York City FC avenging their infamous 7-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls with a lopsided demolition job of their own, on Saturday, was an otherworldly goalkeeping performance from Luis Robles. It was the Red Bulls shot-stopper, with his four saves on the afternoon (three of them coming in spectacular fashion), who kept Jesse Marsch’s side within touching distance for more than an hour. Jack Harrison was denied early on by Robles, but got the better of him not long later for the game’s opening goal. Heroics from Robles kept the score at 1-0 for another 32 minutes, before Ben Sweat’s (accidental?) header made it 2-0 in the 65th minute. The Red Bulls, on the other hand, managed their first shot on target in the 80th minute. That’s three wins in a row for NYCFC, who go seven points clear of their Hudson River rivals and keep Toronto FC in sight at the top of the league table, five points ahead.

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Three moments that mattered

18′ — Robles goes full-stretch to deny Harrison — David Villa’s vision and Rodney Wallace‘s hold-play created the chance for Harrison, but Luis Robles’ acrobatics denied the 20-year-old Englishman in spectacular fashion.

33′ — Harrison not to be denied this time — Sweat delivered the ball to Harrison near the top of the box, and the second-year man did everything right with what’s a really, really difficult chance to take — facing away from goal, first-time, ball traveling across the goalkeeper, upper-90 to the far post.

65′ — Sweat loops a header past Robles for 2-0 — Sweat probably didn’t mean it, but the ball hit the back of the net, and that’s all that matters. Not a bad time to score your first MLS goal, either.

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Man of the match: Luis Robles

Goalscorers: Harrison (33′), Sweat (65′)

Watford signs Will Hughes from Derby County

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Watford has completed the capture of 22-year-old central midfielder Will Hughes, a fantastic transfer for one of England’s younger talents.

Hughes, despite his young age, racked up 189 appearances for Derby County (despite missing significant time in 2015 for an ACL tear) and now gets his first shot at the Premier League, and with it potentially a chance to push his way into the England fold. Hughes has been a staple for the England youth system, making 22 appearances for the country’s U-21 side but is yet to feature for the senior team.

The fee for the transfer was undisclosed but reports have tabbed the amount at around $10 million.

Hughes came close to making the Premier League with Derby County on multiple occasions, reaching the Championship playoffs in both 2014 and 2016. Now, he’ll battle the likes of Valon Behrami, Tom Cleverley, Etienne Capoue, Abdoulaye Doucoure for a spot in Watford’s midfield.

The club release confirmed that Hughes has not yet completed his medical, and will do so when he returns to the U.K. from competing in the U-21 European Championships in Poland.

New Zealand 0-4 Portugal: Ronaldo, Portugal win Group A

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New Zealand gave the 2017 Confederations Cup all they had, but they go home empty-handed as Portugal won the Group A finale 3-0 to advance to the knockout round.

Portugal held much of the possession as expected, but they found little at the end early on. The first true chance fell to Cristiano Ronaldo in the 24th minute, who latched onto a Ricardo Quaresma cross from wide right and produced a powerful header, but it was poorly directed straight to New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic for the easy save.

[ RECAP: Mexico eliminates Russia with 2-1 comeback ]

Ronaldo had another headed chance minutes later, but he rocketed the attempt back off the post. Portugal would eventually find the opener just past the half-hour mark via the penalty spot. Danilo was clearly shoved by a pair of defenders on a set-piece, and Ronaldo easily dispatched the spot-kick for a 1-0 lead.

The favorites would double their lead just a few minutes later as Eliseu on the overlap came down the left flank and cut horizontally into the box. He fed a charging Bernardo Silva, and the in-demand Monaco attacker jumped to meet it and poked home. Silva was unable to celebrate after turning his ankle heavily on the landing, but he would come back onto the field.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Portugal finished things off with 10 minutes to go in the game as Andre Silva burst through the midfielder, shucked his defender, and fired past Marinovic to seal the game for good. Nani added a fourth The win means Portugal finishes level on points with Mexico at the top of Group A, winning the group on goal differential thanks to Silva’s final goal.

Mexico 2-1 Russia: Comeback seals semifinal place

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Mexico again produced a poor first half, but were saved in the final 45 minutes as Juan Carlos Osorio led the CONCACAF squad to the semifinals of the 2017 Confederations Cup.

Right off the bat, there was a controversial moment. Just five minutes into the game, Yuri Zhirkov burst into the Mexico box and went to ground under a challenge from Hector Moreno. The referee waved play on, but it appeared on replay that Moreno tripped Zhirkov. Nevertheless, no call was made and no word came from the video assistant referee.

[ RECAP: Portugal eases by New Zealand 4-0 ]

The hosts had another huge penalty shout, but the referee again waved play on as Fedor Smolov was sent flying to ground as Nestor Araujo contacted his leg from behind in the 17th minute. After about a minute of play, the VAR called for a review, but even after a look at the monitor, the referee decided there was not obvious reason to reverse the call.

With Russia applying all the pressure, they would find the breakthrough in the 25th minute. A pair of fantastic saves from Memo Ochoa went for naught as Alexandr Erokhin whiffed, but he was able to find Aleksandr Samedov who struck low past Ochoa for the opener.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

The lead wouldn’t last long. Mexico didn’t exactly seem sparked by the deficit, but they would draw back level against the run of play just past the half-hour mark. It appeared that Nestor Araujo’s looping header was meant to set up a teammate at the far post, but it ended up chipping Igor Akinfeev and tucking inside the woodwork for the equalizer.

After halftime, Mexico scored completely out of nowhere. A bombed clearance out of the back by Hector Herrera seemed an easy collect for Akinfeev, but as the ball bounced high up into the air, Hirving Lozano charged it down and headed the ball under feeble pressure from the Russian goalkeeper. The ball bounced unchallenged into the net, and Mexico took a shock 2-1 lead.

Mexico appeared to have a third to pad the lead, but VAR took 34 seconds to correctly reverse the call as replay spotted goalscorer Hector Moreno in an offside position on the delivery. Russia was doomed to defeat when Zhirkov was given a second yellow card for a clear elbow to the face of Miguel Layun. Somehow, the hosts still had one big chance in the 72nd minute despite the disadvantage, but Igor Smolinkov somehow missed the net on what should have been a tap-in.

The win for Mexico sees them into the knockout stage, but they fail to win the group, finishing level with Portugal on 7 points but coming up short on goal differential by one. Mexico will be without Andres Guardado in the semifinals, as he was shown his second yellow card of the tournament in the first half.