Leicester City

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Leicester advances in FA Cup as Mahrez returns, stars

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By many accounts, Riyad Mahrez was not just back to his fine-playing ways in his King Power Stadium return on Friday but a veritable Man of the Match.

[ MORE: American debuts as Chelsea tops Hull ]

Leicester knocked Sheffield United out of the FA Cup and moved into the quarterfinals on a Jamie Vardy goal, but it was their Algerian wizard pulling the strings in his first home match since Deadline Day drama saw him leave the team.

Foxes boss Claude Puel has talked up Mahrez since early in his tenure at King Power, and hasn’t stopped just because the player is unsettled. From the BBC:

“The most important thing in the game was the fans supported Riyad and when I replaced him, it was a good feeling with the fans. It’s important to stay united about this, it’s a good thing and we can move on.

“The situation is behind us, it’s important to look forward. Now we have two home games in the Premier League and it’s important to get the support of the fans. We need to come back in the Premier League with conviction.”

Seventh place in the Premier League and a possible spot in the Europa League remain possible for the Foxes, who are just a point behind Burnley and reasonably sizing up Everton as a more legit combatant for the slot.

An FA Cup win would be another route to Europe, and many of the Foxes are still quite familiar with giant killing. Mahrez being committed and back in the picture could be huge.

LIVE, FA Cup: Chelsea, Leicester kick off Round 5

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The final 16 of the FA Cup gets underway Friday afternoon, with Chelsea and Leicester City hosting Championship opposition.

[ LIVE: Follow the FA Cup scores 

New Chelsea signing Emerson makes his club debut as the Blues take on Hull City. According to the BBC, Chelsea has scored 2.9 goals per game in FA Cup matches at Stamford Bridge since 1999, meaning it should be an exciting game for fans. Olivier Giroud also gets the start for the Blues with Alvaro Morata on the bench.

Riyad Mahrez meanwhile makes his return to the Leicester City lineup against Sheffield United after trying to force his way out of the club before the end of the January transfer window.

Mahrez spent ten days away from the club after not being transferred away, but manager Claude Puel has made Mahrez a surprise starter.

Below are the starting lineups for the Premier League sides and be sure to follow along live at the link above. Stay tuned for more coverage after the full-time whistle.

Manchester City 5-1 Leicester City: Aguero, KDB on fire

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  • Sterling scores very early
  • Vardy nabs 13th PL goal
  • Aguero scores four
  • De Bruyne assists three

Sergio Aguero put an exclamation point on a thrilling night with a glorious fourth goal as Manchester City scored in the first three minutes of each half to beat Leicester City 5-1 on Saturday at the Etihad Stadium.

Kevin De Bruyne pulled the strings for goals by Raheem Sterling and two of Sergio Aguero’s four.

Man City’s point total means it could lose every remaining league match and finish no lower than sixth. City has 72 points and a 16-point lead on Man Utd, who plays Sunday.

Jamie Vardy scored for Leicester, making him the first player in league history to score against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur in the same season.

The Foxes remains eighth with 35 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sterling proved his confidence was fine despite a brutal late miss against Burnley, meeting Kevin De Bruyne’s cross for a third minute goal inside the six-yard box.

A Christian Fuchs stop on Sergio Aguero brought a counter attack for Leicester, and Vardy moved past an Ilkay Gundogan slide tackle to shoot past a continually backing off Aymeric Laporte and behind Ederson. 1-1, 25′.

Sterling dove to win a dangerous free kickoff Wilfred Ndidi in the 36th minute, but a leaping Nicolas Otamendi could not meet De Bruyne’s long range pass.

The goal scorer fooled Kasper Schmeichel on a dribble inside the six, but a sliding Aleksandar Dragovic meant Sterling won a corner kick, not a brace.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

It took less than three minutes of the second half for De Bruyne to work more magic, putting together a brilliant team goal for Aguero with Oleksandar Zinchenko and Sterling.

De Bruyne slipped Aguero through for another within 10 minutes, continuing his almost certain PL Player of the Year campaign.

Schmeichel would later give the ball to Aguero inside the 18 to complete another hat trick for one of the PL’s all-time greats.

And Aguero made it four for him and five for his side when he took a feed from Phil Foden and lashed a beauty off the underside of the bar.

WATCH LIVE: Man City vs. Leicester City

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Riyad Mahrez is on the bench for Leicester City as the Foxes look to keep up their decent record against league leaders Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Leicester starts Jamie Vardy and Fousseni Diabate in attack, while Man City keeps John Stones and Vincent Kompany on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Laporte, Otamendi, Zinchenko, Fernandinho (C), Gündogan, De Bruyne, Sterling, Bernardo, Agüero. Subs: Bravo, Danilo, Kompany, Stones, Nmecha, Foden, Diaz

Leicester City: Schmeichel (c), Dragović, Maguire, Fuchs, Albrighton, Silva, Ndidi, James, Chilwell, Diabaté, Vardy. Subs: Jakupović, Simpson, Benalouane, Iborra, Gray, Mahrez, Iheanacho.

PL preview: Man City vs. Leicester City

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  • Man City 13 points clear of everyone in title race
  • Leicester up to 8th after slow start, managerial change
  • Man City unbeaten at home; Leicester just 3 away wins

For the first time since August (not including international breaks), Manchester City are fresh off an entire week between games, and it couldn’t have happened at a worse time, as far as Leicester City, who visit the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com), are concerned.

After making serious headway in the Premier League (runaway leaders and champions-elect), Champions League (group winners, into the round of 16), FA Cup (into the fifth round) and League Cup (into the final), Pep Guardiola‘s side found itself in dire need of an extended (if you considered seven days a long time) break, as fatigued bodies and injuries to key players have piled up in recent weeks. Mercifully, defender John Stones and midfield maestro David Silva are expected to be available for selection come Saturday.

[ LIVE: Stream every Premier League game

Leicester’s recent struggles (loss to Everton, draw with Swansea City), following a particularly purple patch (just one defeat in 11 games from Sept. 30 to Dec. 13) during the middle third of the already-completed portion of the season, was in many ways spurred by Man City, who, whether intentionally or not, unsettle the Foxes’ star attacker, Riyad Mahrez, with a transfer deadline day approach which proved to be unsuccessful. Mahrez then refused to report for training or make himself available for selection the following week, before returning on Friday. He will not feature for the Foxes on Saturday.

Kelechi Iheanacho, who made a $33-million move from Man City to Leicester in the summer, is still seeking his first PL goal (he has five between the FA and League Cups) for his new club. The 21-year-old has featured more prominently in recent weeks (starts in three of Leicester’s last five games – all competitions), and might just continue to do so in the absence of Shinji Okazaki (knee), who’s frequently deployed as a forward/midfielder tweener just behind Jamie Vardy.

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Leroy Sane (ankle), Fabian Delph (knee), Gabriel Jesus (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee); QUESTIONABLE: David Silva (oblique); RETURNING: John Stones (knee) | Leicester — OUT: Riyad Mahrez (personal), Shinji Okazaki (knee), Wes Morgan (hamstring)

What they’re saying…

Pep Guardiola, on City’s busy season: “We have had a lot of games since August, with just one midweek off, so we needed it. We made three good training sessions and then we come back. We love to play football but when you play every three days in three or four competitions, sometimes a break is good for everybody because you come back stronger. Everybody (had a rest). The physios, chef…everybody.”

Claude Puel, on Mahrez: “I think Riyad is not available for Saturday’s game. I hope Riyad can get his head right and come back with us and work hard. The best way is for him to come back and enjoy his football. He is a magnificent player and he enjoys his football. He loves his teammates, and that’s important. He loves to touch the football but he needs to come back right.”

Prediction

Man City have won 12 straight PL games at home (18 across all competitions), outscoring opponents 44-8 during that time (55-11 including other competitions), a run which should leave Leicester with very little hope of earning anything at the Etihad. Man City 3-0 Leicester.