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March Madness: Can Leicester finish with a second Cinderella ending?

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The 2016/17 season has been far from what Leicester City experienced a year ago, and yet the Foxes still have the opportunity to outdo themselves.

[ MORE: Lukaku reportedly turns down new Everton deal ]

A Premier League title is nice, but what if a bigger trophy was on the table? Perhaps a UEFA Champions League crown?

That became a distinct possibility on Tuesday when Leicester reached the UCL quarterfinals after completing a 3-2 comeback against Sevilla over their two-legged Round of 16 encounter.

It’s true that the Foxes will have to deal with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and others if Craig Shakespeare’s squad is able to complete the unthinkable — again — but the club’s manager is a prime example of exactly why Leicester could do it.

When Claudio Ranieri was sacked several weeks back and Leicester appeared dead-in-the-water, up stepped Shakespeare. The former assistant was just a 53-year-old expected to right the ship after the club appeared on pace to complete the greatest collapse in PL history after winning the league the season prior.

Instead, Shakespeare and co. are unbeaten in three matches since the Birmingham-native took charge of the club, including wins over Liverpool and more recently Sevilla.

It’s a strong possibility that a managerial change was exactly what the Leicester players needed, but it does raise a question.

Why the sudden change in form?

Sinking towards the bottom of the PL is unacceptable for any reigning champion, and although Leicester doesn’t boast the status of a Manchester United or Chelsea, the club did bring back essentially the same squad from a year ago with the exception of N'Golo Kante.

It’s only a small sample size of the Shakespeare era but there has been a noticeable difference in his three matches in charge.

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Jamie Vardy has been more effective in the attack, which is something that couldn’t be said for much of the first half of the season.

Meanwhile, the club’s other key attacking threat, Riyad Mahrez, has been effective throughout the season, particularly in the Champions League. The Algerian has netted four of his eight goals in the UCL, which is tied for eighth in the competition.

While the Foxes attack has enamored onlookers for the past year-and-a-half, one player that has really gone under the radar is goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. The former Manchester United shot-stopper’s son has been the definition of stable in the Leicester net, and that was once again apparent on Tuesday.

Schmeichel made a seemingly crucial error by taking down Vitolo in the Leicester penalty area while the Foxes were up a goal and a man, but the 30-year-old immediately made good on his mistake by stopping the subsequent spot kick.

It’s that fighting spirit though that makes the Foxes as exciting as they’ve been, and regardless of which team Leicester draws in the final eight it’s conceivable that this side has at least one more moment of magic left in them in 2016/17.

La Liga & Serie A: Bale leads Real to seven-goal outburst and more

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A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

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Real Madrid 7-1 Deportivo La Coruna

Now, this is more like it from the defending European champions. Zinedine Zidane’s side went behind on Sunday when Adrian put the visitors in front, however, Real Madrid woke up and scored seven unanswered goals at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Gareth Bale was the star on the day with a brilliant curler that kicked off the first of his two goals (below). After Cristiano Ronaldo appeared to go down inside the penalty area, Bale carried on and put the ball onto his left foot before sliding his shot in off the inside of the far post.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo picked up a brace of his own on the day, both of which came off of headers for the Portuguese international. The veteran goalscorer also got bloodied on the day, but that didn’t stop him from adding to his impressive goal total.

Real Betis 0-5 Barcelona

A slow start to the match was aided by a Barcelona team that came out for blood in the second stanza. Ivan Rakitic and braces from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi paced the road side in the second half, keeping their unbeaten La Liga record in tacked.

Although Rakitic was the first to find his name on the scoresheet, it was his assist to Suarez that later on that proved to be a thing of excellence from both parties.

The first half was mildly uneventful for the Blaugrana, however, the Catalonians suffered another injury blow as Thomas Vermaelen left the match after pulling up in the first half with what appeared to be a hamstring pull.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Alaves 2-2 Leganes
Real Sociedad 1-2 Celta Vigo


Lazio 5-1 Chievo Verona

Lazio moved into third place in Serie A after a convincing victory at the Stadio Olimpico. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s double for the hosts helped propel them to the win, after Luis Alberto kicked off the scoring in the 23rd minute.

Chievo found a brief response two minutes later, but from there it was all Lazio as they closed to within 11 points of league leaders Napoli.

Cagliari 1-2 AC Milan

Franck Kessié scored twice in six minutes to pull Milan back into the match on the day, and that was exactly what they needed to secure three points at the Sardegna Arena. AC Milan sits seventh in Italy’s top flight through 21 matches, 23 points behind Napoli.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Inter Milan 1-1 Roma
Udinese 1-1 SPAL
Sassuolo 1-1 Torino
Sampdoria 3-1 Fiorentina
Bologna 3-0 Benevento
Hellas Verona 0-3 Crotone
Atalanta 0-1 Napoli

Video: Kurzawa silences Lyon with spectacular volley

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Lyon went ahead inside the opening two minutes, but then Layvin Kurzawa had his say for the visitors on the stroke of halftime.

[ MORE: Fekir’s free kick stuns PSG in opening two minutes]

Dani Alves set up the defender for one of the best volleys you’ll see in first-half stoppage time on Sunday to level the match at 1-1.

Watch below as PSG ties things up with just seconds remaining before the halftime whistle.

Video: Fekir’s brilliant free kick has Lyon leading PSG

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Paris-Saint Germain has established itself as one of Europe’s best sides, but their opponent on Sunday isn’t playing scared against Neymar and Co.

[ MORE: Spurs, Saints play to 1-1 draw at St. Mary’s ]

Lyon has taken a 1-0 lead inside the opening two minutes against the Parisians after a stunning free kick by Nabil Fekir caught PSG keeper Alphonse Aréola off his line.

The hosts could move all the way up to second place today with a victory over PSG, who holds the league lead in Ligue 1 with a nine-point advantage.

The 24-year-old Fekir has been a revelation for Lyon in his fifth season with the club, scoring his 19th goal in all competitions on Sunday.

That total has already surpassed his career-high from the 2014/15 season, when he eclipsed 15 goals.

USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie injured in Schalke draw

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Look away, U.S. Men’s National Team fans.

American and Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie was forced out of Sunday’s 1-1 Bundesliga draw against Hanover 96 after the 19-year-old collided with Felix Kraus.

McKennie, who entered the match in the 62nd minute for Leon Goretzka, managed to stay on the field for nearly 20 minutes before being substituted out.

To this point there has been no indication that the young USMNT player’s injury is serious.

More to follow…