Claudio Ranieri

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Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Vardy claims “death threats” made to him, family over Ranieri firing

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Jamie Vardy claims “death threats” were made to himself and his family in the days and weeks since Claudio Ranieri was fired as Leicester City manager last month.

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Vardy was, at the time, alleged to have been a central figure in a players’ revolt against the Italian manager who last season guided Leicester to the Premier League title despite 5,000-to-1 odds prior to the start of the season. Vardy says the stories were false, even providing an alibi of sorts, while also revealing the threats made against his family — quotes from the BBC:

“It is terrifying. I read one story that said I was personally involved in a meeting after the Sevilla game when I was actually sat in anti-doping for three hours.

“But then the story is out there, people pick it up and jump on it and you’re getting death threats about your family, kids, everything.”

“When people are trying to cut your missus up while she’s driving, with the kids in the back of the car, it’s not the best.”

[ MORE: Prandelli said no to Leicester “after seeing how Ranieri was treated” ]

Whether or not Vardy was the only player lobbying for Ranieri’s dismissal, or not at all involved, threats of violence have no place in society, let alone sports. Vardy went on to say that relations between Ranieri and his players were very healthy, right up until his departure.

“If there was an issue, you went and did it in the gaffer’s office or you went and did it on the tactics board, because he was happy for you to come in and put your opinion across.

“The stories were quite hurtful to be honest with you. A lot of false accusations were being thrown out there and there was nothing we, as players, could do about it.”

Prandelli: I said no to Leicester “after seeing how Ranieri was treated”

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The managerial fraternity may seem large, in that there are literally thousands of football clubs the world over, but when you consider the planet’s population, those with experience as coach and/or manager is microscopic.

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As such, one can fairly safely assume that managers talk. “Don’t go there, the owner’s an idiot,” or “I’d take that job, that player’s going to be a star.” Thus, it’s probably wise for football clubs to treat their employees — this includes often-egotistical, millionaire managers, especially — in a manner which you’d hope for him to express to the rest of the fraternity.

On the other hand, if you treat someone so poorly that tales needn’t even be exchanged, you might just make life a whole lot harder on yourself down the road. Take, for instance, Leicester City’s search to replace recently-departed Claudio Ranieri, whose countryman, former Italian national team boss Cesare Prandelli, was offered the job in the days or weeks following Ranieri’s departure — translated quotes via the Guardian:

“I immediately said no. You don’t accept a job like that. You don’t go there after seeing how Ranieri was treated. I am not going there. Full stop.”

“He’s a coach who won a memorable, historic title and is then dumped after a few months.”

[ MORE: The “mature” one — Mourinho says he’s matured at Man United ]

Craig Shakespeare will serve as interim manager for the remainder of the 2016-17 season, at which point the club’s board will decide between keeping him on permanently or replacing him with someone who’s either, 1) not friends with Ranieri, or 2) sympathetic to his perceived mistreatment.

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.

UCL Tuesday: Leicester, Porto look to score comebacks

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There have been surprises in the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16, but rarely has it dealt with who’s won or lost.

Yes, Barcelona came back to beat Paris Saint-Germain in an all-timer, but Barca was favored to win. And the only thing eyebrow-raising about Real Madrid and Bayern Munich’s wins were the margins of victory.

[ MORE: Mourinho zings Chelsea fans ]

The favorites of Tuesday’s match-ups also lead after one leg, but what are the chances either script gets flipped by early evening?

Juventus vs. Porto — 3:45 p.m. EDT
Juventus leads 2-0

Marko Pjaca and Dani Alves scored two minutes apart at the Estadio do Dragao on Feb. 22, a pair of goals that sank Porto’s hopes significantly.

Juve hasn’t lost since Jan. 15, though there’s a slight dent in their armor when it comes to defense. The Old Lady has allowed a goal in each of its last three matches. Porto has blasted its last two league foes by a combined score of 11-0, but can it step up in class and scoop a two-goal win at Juventus Stadium?

Leicester City vs. Sevilla — 3:45 p.m. EDT
Sevilla leads 2-1

Can the Foxes make use of Jamie Vardy‘s road goal and spring one more surprising result in Europe? The Foxes and Claudio Ranieri were controlled by Sevilla in a 2-1 road loss, but Craig Shakespeare’s in charge for the return leg.

Leicester star midfielder Danny Drinkwater remains excited by the Foxes’ standing in Europe, and to be home at the King Power Stadium for such an occasion has him fired up.

“A massive thing for me is hearing the music,” he adds. “Tingle down the spine, you want to kick off as soon as you can. There is not a bigger stage in club football so more games of that the better for players, for the club.”

The time may be right; Sevilla is not flying, having drawn two-straight La Liga matches against non-powers Alaves and Leganes.