Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Leicester City

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It has been an interesting summer at the King Power Stadium, as Leicester City have a new manager after firing Nigel Pearson.

[ MORE: All of PST’s season previews ]

Claudio Ranieiri is the new man in charge, as Pearson was let go after a series of off the field incidents. The Foxes managed to pull off the “great escape” last season to remain in the Premier League, as they won seven of their final nine matches of the season to survive. They have spent nine years in total in the PL, and the Midlands club have won the League Cup three times in their 131-year history.

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Regional rivals include both Derby County and Nottingham Forest, both of whom are in English soccer’s second tier, while Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion are their nearest PL foes in the Midlands.

Best possible XI:

—– Schmeichel —–

 — Morgan — Huth — Wasilewski —

Mahrez — King — Albrighton — Schlupp

Kramaric — Vardy — Okazaki

Transfers In: Christian Fuchs (Free, Schalke), Robert Huth ($5 million, Stoke City), Shinji Okazaki ($11.5 million, Mainz)

Transfers Out: Paul Gallagher (Free, Preston North End), Anthony Knockaert (Free, Standard Liege), Chris Woo ($5 million, Leeds United)

Last season: 14th in the Premier League – It was an incredible season at the KP as the Foxes survived relegation against all the odds. Pearson’s side had some incredible wins during the campaign, as they beat Manchester United 5-3 early on to fill the fans with hope. Some tough months followed however, with speculation around Pearson’s job continuing, but he remained in charge and led Leicester to one of the greatest escapes the PL has ever seen. They won seven of their final nine games to lift themselves out of the bottom three and they ended up finishing in 14th.

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Will Vardy, right, be the star of the show?

Star player: Jamie Vardy – The tireless forward just didn’t stop running all season long and he was rewarded for his fine form with an England debut. Vardy, 28, made his way up through the leagues from semi-pro soccer to the PL in lightning quick time and opposition defenses just couldn’t deal with his pace and direct style of play. If he can improve his finishing and gets the opportunity to spend more time in the box this season, Vardy should enjoy another stellar campaign.

Coaches’ Corner: Ranieri has a really tough job on his hands at the KP. Leicester’s squad was built by Pearson and he seemed to know how to get the best out of them. The Italian manager — infamously dubbed “The Tinkerman” due to his ever-changing starting lineup during his time in charge of Chelsea — has never faced a PL relegation battle during his long managerial career and it has been 11 years since he last coached in England. Is the ultra-defensive coach ready for the cut and thrust of a relegation battle in England’s top-flight? Many believe he is not, but he has kept this squad together over the offseason so a few key additions will be crucial to his and Leicester’s success.

source: AP
Is Ranieri the right man for Leicester?

PST predicts: Expect another relegation battle at the KP as the Foxes will have to adapt to a new playing philosophy and hope second-season syndrome does not kick in. Leicester proved how good they could be in attack towards the end of last season and if they can keep the tempo of their play high, they will gain plenty of points at home as the KP has become a fortress. That said, the jury is still out on whether Ranieri is the right man for the job.

Pogba reportedly ready to leave Man Utd; But where would he go?

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Paul Pogba doesn’t intend to be long for Manchester United, according to a report from L’Equipe.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s best player has reportedly told some teammates that he plans to leave the Old Trafford this summer, three years removed from his spectacular return from Juventus.

[ MORE: Solskjaer, Pep trade jabs ]

Rumors of a connection with Real Madrid have persisted, and Pep Guardiola was asked earlier Tuesday about an offer extended the way of Man City (Guardiola vehemently denied it).

Perhaps United does want to move on from the 26-year-old. We’ll play along. Here are a few sensational moves that could make some sense for both player and United.

Real Madrid: Remember 2009? That’s when an aging Real Madrid lost La Liga to Barcelona by nine points, led in scoring by Raul (aged 32), Ruud van Nistelrooy (32), and Gonzalo Higuain (21). They turned to Manchester United for a splashy buy of Cristiano Ronaldo, assuming he had higher levels to reach in his career.

Equating Pogba to one of the greatest players of all-time is silly at this stage, but Real will make some massive splashes this summer (perhaps Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, and Pogba?). Imagine that trio combining with a healthy Vinicius Junior.

Real could part ways with Raphael Varane, who seems to want to taste the Premier League, and maybe Gareth Bale could also return to the league.

PSG: You though Alexis Sanchez for Henrikh Mkhitaryan was a sexy swap?The fun of such deals continues with one for the ages. Heading to Paris would be French World Cup hero Pogba. Going to United: former rumor mill darling Neymar. To borrow a phrase from Twitter trade prognosticators: Who says no?

Juventus: Given the way teams in Italy tend to extend stars vitality and careers, Pogba’s essentially a baby by their standards. Cristiano Ronaldo has committed to The Old Lady and the club’s fan base is essentially yawning at scudetti. Pogba could form an incredible midfield under Ronaldo, teaming with Miralem Pjanic and Emre Can. The challenge here is the sum of money Juve would have to unload for Pogba, presuming it doesn’t part ways with Paulo Dybala (though Moise Kean is ready for prime time).

Promoter sues USSF over proposed Ecuador match in Florida

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NEW YORK (AP) A promoter has sued the U.S. Soccer Federation, asking a court to order the governing body to sanction an Ecuador league match in Florida.

Relevent Sports filed suit Monday in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleging the USSF illegally denied its application to have Ecuador’s Barcelona and Guayaquil clubs play on May 5 at Miami Gardens, Florida.

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The lawsuit quotes USSF policy as stating the governing body’s secretary general “shall grant such sanction unless it is decided by clear and convincing evidence that holding or sponsoring the international soccer competition would be detrimental to the best interest of the sport.”

In a letter sent Monday to Relevent, USSF chief legal officer Lydia Wahlke wrote FIFA “remains opposed to playing official league matches outside the territory of the member association(s) to which the relevant league belongs.”

The USSF issued a statement Tuesday saying it treated the request as a normal application and it asked Ecuador and South American soccer’s governing body about the proposal and never heard back. The USSF pointed out Relevent sued even before the USSF denied the application.

Relevent attempted to stage the first Spanish La Liga match in the U.S., between Barcelona and Girona, at Miami Gardens on Jan. 26. That effort fell through following opposition from the governing body of Spanish soccer, the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol, and the players’ union, the Asociacion de Futbolistas Espanoles.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Eintracht director: Real will probably get Jovic if they want him

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Eintracht Frankfurt director Fredi Bobic is worried he has little hope of keeping his 21-year-old star striker if Real Madrid really wants him.

Luka Jovic is scoring goal after goal in the Bundesliga and Europa League, the Serbian’s loan from Benfica made permanent by a paltry $8 million exercised in April.

[ MORE: Solskjaer, Pep trade jabs ]

He has 25 goals and seven assists across all competitions, scoring against Inter Milan, Benfica, Marseille, Lazio, Inter Milan, and Borussia Dortmund. He also bagged five goals against Fortuna Dusseldorf, which is pretty good.

So the links to Real Madrid make sense, especially with Zinedine Zidane in search of the next Karim Benzema. Here’s Bobic, from Marca:

“I hope and want him to stay here at Eintracht, but I’m also realistic and know that if a big club like Real Madrid want him then we haven’t got a chance of keeping him.”

The quotes come on the same day that Bayern Munich’s interest in the striker was reportedly mooted, and certainly Eintracht would rather sell to a La Liga club than the Bundesliga stalwarts.

Chelsea fans will get an up-close look at Jovic in the Europa League semifinals early next month. Will the Blues, or anyone else, proffer the sort of money that would allow them to rival Real for Jovic’s affection?

PL Preview: Manchester Derby, Wolves-Arsenal

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All Premier League clubs will have played 35 matches this season following the conclusion of two beautiful Wednesday outings in England.

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Manchester United v. Manchester City — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer poked the bear, and got a response.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s Manchester Derby at Old Trafford, Solskjaer claimed Man City “will snap at your ankles and heels and kick you” upon giving up the ball to opponents ready to counterattack.

City boss Pep Guardiola was not pleased with the comments. From The Manchester Evening News:

“I don’t like it. I don’t like it. No. My team is not built to think and create for that, not at all,” he said, later adding, “Maybe tomorrow in the press conference after the game you can ask him again about that.”

Solskjaer is hoping he won’t spend a second successive post-match ruminating over a grievous loss, as he did following a 4-0 beatdown from Everton on Sunday.

And if responding to its UEFA Champions League exit with a Saturday win over Tottenham Hotspur was satisfying for Guardiola, imagine how revved up he’ll be to reclaim hold on the Premier League crown while completing a season sweep of its local rivals for the first time since 2013-14.

City beat United 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season, and is looking to avoid its first league loss at Old Trafford in four tries.

Wolves v. Arsenal — 2:45 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

Unai Emery‘s Arsenal heads to the Molineux Stadium hoping its away support is better than the perceived harsh treatment handed to his Gunners in a 3-2 home loss to Crystal Palace on Sunday.

“I say to our supporters, ‘Help our players.’ Because I want every player to have big confidence,” Emery said. “I know there are reactions, and the first reaction is strong. First, when we win they are telling us we are the best, we have a record, we have a possibility to be third in the table – that is good.”

Arsenal would move into the Top Four with a win, but Nuno Espirito Santo‘s Wolves are fighting for a place in Europe themselves. That’s true on two fronts, though it must be said they could have sewn up seventh place with better play in recent weeks.

Wolves have claimed just five of their last 15 available points, including a draw with Brighton and losses to Burnley and Southampton. Even one more win would have them seventh heading into Tuesday.

“There’s no reference to the table, the reference is to grow, to improve game by game,” said Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo. “Every game is a chance to improve. We have a fantastic opportunity to become a better team, trying new things, but at the same time trying to make players grow on the idea that we want regarding the future. This is what we focus on until the end, there’s no thinking about the summer or next season, it’s a game by game process.”