Jamie Vardy

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Jamie Vardy hails Leicester’s success; leaves future wide open

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Jamie Vardy insists the party is still going strong at Leicester City.

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One year on from winning the Premier League title, the Foxes are battling to finish in eighth place when they host Tottenham Hotspur at the King Power Stadium on Thursday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Despite Claudio Ranieri being fired midseason with Leicester embroiled in a relegation battle, Vardy reflected on the season heading into the final two games and deems it a success.

“Obviously we won the league but we set ourselves realistic targets. I think if you would have asked anyone this season that we would finish midtable and get to a Champions League quarterfinal, they would have snapped your hands off. It depends and outgoing and incomings during the summer and once all that is sorted there will be targets set and it’s up to the 11 players who are put on the pitch to get the points.”

Vardy certainly had a slow start to the season, like most of his teammates, but the pacey striker has scored 10 goals and added three assists in his last 16 games in all competitions. Before that he had just three goals (all in a 4-2 victory over Manchester City) in 26 appearances for Leicester.

Asked about the future of many of Leicester’s players — Vardy has been linked with a move to Atletico Madrid, among others — the England international left things wide-open.

“It’s football. Anything can happen,” Vardy said. “That will be up for the club and the individuals themselves if offers are put in for them or if they wanted to go. If you look around at the lads, the vast majority defo still want to be here and progress how we want to.”

With Kasper Schmeichel, Vardy and Riyad Mahrez lined with moves away from the King Power Stadium this summer, now may be the best time for them to move on. Apart from N'Golo Kante, they all hung around to follow on from the title dream in 2015-16 and they took Leicester on a fairytale run to the last eight of the Champions League.

It would be a shame to see this team broken up this summer, but they may receive offers too good to turn down for Vardy, Mahrez and Schmeichel.

Craig Shakespeare is likely to be given a new contract once this season is over and his first priority should be keeping those three players at Leicester.

Report: Vardy, Sanchez lined up by Atletico Madrid

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When you think about it, these two players are perfect for Atletico Madrid.

Absolutely, positively, perfect.

[ MORE: United’s top transfer target? ]

A report from Miguel Delaney in The Independent states that both Jamie Vardy and Alexis Sanchez are high on the list of striking options for Diego Simeone this summer.

Of course, these moves are dependent on two very important factors: a) Simeone still being in charge next season and b) Atletico get an 18-month transfer ban lifted by FIFA. A decision on the latter is expected in June (Atleti have appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport) after Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid were both sanctioned by soccer’s governing body due to breaking rules regarding signing U-18 players.

And, the other big factor around all of this is Antoine Griezmann potentially leaving Atletico this summer with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea constantly linked with a move to sign the Frenchman. Griezmann scored in Atleti’s 2-1 win on Wednesday night in their UCL semifinal second leg but his side crashed out to Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate and reports suggest he could move on for a fee of around $100 million.

Sticking with Vardy and Sanchez, both would likely snap up a move to La Liga and be part of a team which always seems to overachieve and goes deep in the UEFA Champions League. With Leicester not in the UCL next season, plus Arsenal struggling massively to make the top four, it would be tough to turn down guaranteed Champions League action for both.

It would sort of be a two-for-one deal as Griezmann would leave and both Vardy and Sanchez could come in, and of course it was Arsene Wenger‘s plan to pair Vardy and Sanchez together at Arsenal this season but Vardy rejected the move to remain at Leicester.

With their pacey, hard-working style of play under Simeone, both Vardy and Sanchez would surely be at home at Atletico and the former is said to have impressed Simeone during their UCL quarterfinal win over Leicester and there are surely few people at the club who would stand in his way if a move was arranged.

When it comes to Sanchez, we know that his future is uncertain with just one year remaining on his contract and even though Arsenal would sell him reluctantly this summer, they’d be much happier to sell him to La Liga rather than a PL rival. The Chilean forward became the first Arsenal player since Robin Van Persie to score 20 PL goals with his fine strike at Southampton on Wednesday but his future remains uncertain at the Emirates Stadium.

As Atletico prepare for life at their new 70,000 home at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium next season, they could well have some new strikers to smooth over any big-name sales this summer as goalkeeper Jan Oblak is also rumored to be interesting Manchester United and many others.

Signing both Vardy and Sanchez would be a stretch but not out of the realms of possibility, especially if Griezmann moves on.

West Brom 0-1 Leicester City: Vardy keeps Baggies stumbling

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  • Vardy nabs game’s lone goal
  • Leicester hits 40 points
  • Baggies have 4 points since Feb.

The reigning champions are within striking distance of the top half after beating moribund West Brom 1-0 on Saturday at the Hawthorns.

Leicester City hit the 40-point mark behind Jamie Vardy‘s goal, his 12th of the PL season, while West Brom has six losses in eight matches in another post-safety swoon.

The Foxes are four points back of eighth place West Brom.

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Leicester worked its way into a power position during the first five minutes, and Wilfried Ndidi saw his shot deflected out for a sixth minute corner.

West Brom found its footing after the quarter hour mark, when Chris Brunt‘s header back across goal forced Kasper Schmeichel into a quick reaction, one-arm save.

Vardy punished Pulis’ plans when Leicester took advantage of a poor back pass from Allan Nyom. Shinji Okazaki sent Vardy on goal, and the striker hit to the near post to beat a splayed Ben Foster. 1-0.

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Salomon Rondon hit a low shot that Schmeichel collected early in the second half as the Baggies aimed to recover.

Godin: Vardy good enough for “most teams in the world”

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So what if Jamie Vardy‘s 2016-17 season hasn’t come close to matching the dizzying heights that Leicester City’s leading man hit in last season’s title-winning campaign?

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Sure, Leicester only just recently did enough to stave off relegation and secure their status as a Premier League club next season — and Vardy’s production has dropped from 24 PL goals last season, to just 11 this term — but that doesn’t mean Diego Godin will be taking the reigning FWA Player of the Year lightly when Atletico Madrid visit the King Power Stadium in the two sides’ UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg on Tuesday.

In fact, Godin has revealed just how highly he thinks of Vardy’s game and the threat he’ll pose as the Foxes attempt to overturn a 1-0 deficit and reach the Champions League semifinals — quotes from the Guardian:

“He would fit in at the vast majority of teams in the world. He works, sacrifices himself for the team, and on top of that scores goals. Who wouldn’t want a striker who kills himself for you, then gives you attacking solutions?”

“A striker like that is fundamental for a team like Leicester that plays the way that they do. If they didn’t have that kind of striker, maybe they wouldn’t be Leicester, the team we’ve seen. He’s a great player, who fights and competes. Against Sevilla [in the round of 16], every ball that went into the Sevilla half he fought for; he never gave a ball up for lost. At the Calderon he was virtually alone and if he didn’t touch the ball often that doesn’t mean he’s not a great striker, quite the opposite. It’s because we paid him so much attention. We were focused on not giving him space, cutting off access to him.”

The more Atleti sit back and defend with numbers, the less space Vardy will have to run into and terrorize Godin and Co. Given the fact they’re protecting they’re protecting a one-goal lead away from home, you can expect Diego Simeone’s side to nullify Vardy’s greatest asset, his speed, in that manner.

PL Sunday preview: Sunderland-Man United; surging Foxes visit Everton

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Dreams of a top-four finish are quickly slipping away from Manchester United, just as Premier League status has (finally) done for Sunderland; Everton reside in no man’s land, between the top-six miles clear of eighth place, while Leicester City have finally shaken their PL title hangover.

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Sunderland vs. Manchester United — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The objective was clear: Jose Mourinho was expected to return Man United to the PL’s top-four in his first season at Old Trafford. Reality is equally clear, and harsh: with two games in hand, and a seven-point deficit to fourth-place Manchester City to overcome, the Red Devils need their points three at a time from here on out; no side in the PL has drawn more games this season (12 — tied with Middlesbrough). While Mourinho’s men are unbeaten in their last 20 league games, dating all the way back Oct. 29, they’ve won just half of those games, dropping a season-killing 20 points in the process.

Sunderland, on the other hand, have finally run out of lives. After escaping near certain relegation (doing so in stunning fashion each time) in each of the last four seasons, David Moyes will almost certainly (we think) take the Black Cats down to the Championship this summer. 10 points currently stand between last-place Sunderland and Hull City in 17th; even a win on Sunday wouldn’t move them off the bottom of the table. Sunderland have just one win in their last 13 PL games played. One potential silver lining: they did beat United at home last season.

INJURIES: Sunderland — OUT: Jan Kirchoff (knee), Paddy McNair (knee), Duncan Watmore (knee) | Man United — OUT: Juan Mata (groin), Chris Smalling (knee), Phil Jones (toe); QUESTIONABLE: Wayne Rooney (ankle), Ashley Young (knock)

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Spurs apply pressure, Chelsea unfazed ]

Everton vs. Leicester City — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

From relegation-threatened defending champions, to totally clear of the drop zone and safely enjoying mid-table obscurity, all in six weeks’ time — the 2016-17 season has been an emotional roller coaster for Leicester. Harkening back to last season’s title-winning fairytale is Jamie Vardy‘s timely return to form, as the reigning Player of the Season has bagged five goals in his last five PL games to match his tally from his first 22 league appearances this season. After 25 games, the point at which Claudio Ranieri was fired, the Foxes sat 18th in the league table. Five straight wins have seen Craig Shakespeare’s side rise all the way up to 11th with a chance to climb into the top half on Sunday.

As for Everton, a derby defeat at the hands of Liverpool, followed by a 1-1 draw with Manchester United three days later, brought to a screeching halt all momentum created by a stretch of just one loss in 12 games (eight wins) from Boxing Day to St. Patrick’s Day. Romelu Lukaku (21 goals) remains top of the Golden Boot race, two clear of Harry Kane, though the big Belgian failed to find the back of the net in each of the last week’s disappointing results. Prior to last weekend, the 23-year-old had scored nine goals in five PL games.

INJURIES: Everton — OUT: Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), Seamus Coleman (leg), James McCarthy (hamstring), Yannick Bolasie (knee), Muhamed Besic (knee); RETURNING: Morgan Schneiderlin (calf) | Leicester — OUT: Wes Morgan (back); QUESTIONABLE: Nampalys Mendy (ankle)