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Leicester City player fact files: Who are the champions elect?

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Just who are Leicester City’s players who have come together to become one of the best team units in Premier League history?

Well, they’re a real mix of lower-league gems, cast offs from other clubs and lesser known foreign players who Claudio Ranieri has galvanized into being the champions elect.

[ MORE: The day they (pretty much) won the PL ] 

Their most-used starting XI (which can be recited easily by any PL fan) cost just $35 million to assemble, which is shockingly cheap compared to the likes of Manchester City whose best XI cost in excess of $500 million. They play in a 4-4-2 formation which is unusual these days but nobody can stop them.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

From relegation battlers last season, Leicester needs four wins from their final six games to guarantee the title.

“This is a small club that is showing the world what can be achieved through spirit and determination,” Ranieri said recently. “Twenty-six players. Twenty-six different brains. But one heart.”

Here’s a look at each player — remarkably, Leicester has only used 19 players in the PL this season with injuries kind to them — who has played their part so far this season, as this Leicester team will go down as one of the most memorable in sporting history if they can clinch the PL title.

Note: The “That’s sooo Leicester” section is a quick snippet which tells the story of how some of these guys have made the most of second chances or are just generally a little quirky.

Let’s look at this crew…


GOALKEEPER

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 14: Kasper Schmeichel of Leicester City celebrates victory after the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Newcastle United at The King Power Stadium on March 14, 2016 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Name: Kasper Schmeichel
Age: 29
Previous club: Leeds United
Cost: $2 million
PL appearances in 2015-16: 32
That’s soooo Leicester: His father, Peter, won the PL multiple times with Man United. He is a Danish international, but sounds like he’s from Manchester. It’s awesome. 


DEFENDERS

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 01: Danny Simpson of Leicester City in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion at The King Power Stadium on March 1, 2016 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Name: Danny Simpson
Age: 29
Previous club:
Cost: $3.5 million
Appearances in 2015-16: 24
That’s soooo Leicester: Handed a second chance and is currently serving 300 hours of community service after being found guilty of assault. He was working two nights a week at a bingo hall…

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 03: Wes Morgan of Leicester City celebrates with team mates as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Southampton at The King Power Stadium on April 3, 2016 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Name: Wes Morgan
Age: 32
Previous club: Nottingham Forest
Cost: $1.5 million
Appearances in 2015-16: 32
That’s soooo Leicester: Played in both the Copa America and Gold Cup for Jamaica last summer back-to-back. He hasn’t had a break since the summer of 2014. Machine.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06: Robert Huth of Leicester City celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Name: Robert Huth
Age: 31
Previous club: Stoke City
Cost: $5 million
Appearances in 2015-16: 31
That’s soooo Leicester: Cast aside by Stoke after losing his starting spot and some questionable social media use. Loaned out to bottom club Leicester last season and helped keep them up, then signed a permanent deal.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 03: Christian Fuchs of Leicester City is chased by Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Southampton at The King Power Stadium on April 3, 2016 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Name: Christian Fuchs
Age: 30
Previous club: Schalke 04
Cost: Free
Appearances in 2015-16: 26
That’s soooo Leicester: Eccentric Austrian international plans to be an NFL kicker after he retires from soccer. Seriously.


MIDFIELDERS

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27: Danny Drinkwater of Leicester City battles with Steven Naismith of Norwich City during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Norwich City at The King Power Stadium on February 27, 2016 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Name: Danny Drinkwater
Age: 26
Previous club: Manchester United
Cost: $1 million
Appearances in 2015-16: 30
That’s soooo Leicester: At Man United as a youngster, Drinkwater was on loan at Barnsley when Leicester brought him. Made his England debut this season.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Junior Stanislas of Bournemouth and Ngolo Kante of Leicester City compete for the bacompete for the ballduring the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Bournemouth at The King Power Stadium on January 2, 2016 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Name: N’Golo Kante
Age: 25
Previous club: Caen
Cost: $8.5 million
Appearances in 2015-16: 31
That’s soooo Leicester: Playing in the French fourth division a few years ago, Kante made his debut for France in the spring and scored. The heartbeat of the team.

Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City FC

Name: Riyad Mahrez
Age: 25
Previous club: Le Havre
Cost: $1 million
Appearances in 2015-16: 31
That’s soooo Leicester: Another gem plucked from the lower leagues in France, Mahrez was deemed to skinny to play when growing up in Paris. Now he’s likely to be the PL’s Player of the Year.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: Marc Albrighton and Leicester City players celebrate their 1-0 win in the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Leicester City at Selhurst Park on March 19, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Name: Marc Albrighton
Age: 26
Previous club: Aston Villa
Cost: Free
Appearances in 2015-16: 32
That’s soooo Leicester: Released by his boyhood club Aston Villa after spending his entire career there, Albrighton has shown them what they’re missing.


STRIKERS

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 14: Shinji Okazaki of Leicester City scores their first goal with an overhead kick as Steven Taylor of Newcastle United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Newcastle United at The King Power Stadium on March 14, 2016 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Name: Shinji Okazaki
Age: 29
Previous club: Mainz 05
Cost: $11 million
Appearances in 2015-16: 30
That’s soooo Leicester: He has fallen in love with fish and chips since moving to England from Germany last summer.

Leicester’s Jamie Vardy celebrates after scoring against Manchester United, his eleventh consecutive goal in the Premier League, during the English Premier League soccer match between Leicester City and Manchester United at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, England, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. Vardy becomes the first man to score in 11 consecutive English Premier League soccer matches after finding the back of the net against Manchester United today.(AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Name: Jamie Vardy
Age: 29
Previous club: Fleetwood Town
Cost: $2 million
Appearances in 2015-16: 32
That’s soooo Leicester: Where do we start? Playing in England’s eighth-tier a few years ago, Vardy almost gave up a year after signing at Leicester from non-league Fleetwood Town. Has had plenty of off-field issues but is now an England international, leading scorer for Leicester and the talisman of this team. He scored in 11-straight games this season to set a new PL record and they’re making a movie about his rise.


OFF THE BENCH

Name: Leonardo Ulloa
Age: 29
Previous club: Brighton & Hove Albion
Cost: $15 million
Appearances in 2015-16: 24
That’s soooo Leicester: Stood with away fans of Brighton, his old club, when they played Tottenham in a cup game.

Name: Andy King
Age: 27
Previous club: Leicester
Appearances in 2015-16: 21
That’s soooo Leicester: Has spent his entire career at Leicester after leaving Chelsea’s youth setup as a kid.

Name: Demarai Gray
Age: 19
Previous club: Birmingham City
Cost: $5.5 million
Appearances in 2015-16: 7
That’s soooo Leicester: Fist club was Cadbury Athletic in Birmingham. That’s right, it’s where the British chocolatier is based. Signed in January.

Name: Nathan Dyer
Age: 28
Previous club: Swansea City
Cost: Currently on loan
Appearances in 2015-16: 12
That’s soooo Leicester: Was caught on camera, along with Bradley Wright-Phillips, stealing a barmaids handbag when playing for Southampton. Was subsequently sold to Swansea.

Name: Daniel Amarety
Age: 21
Previous club: Copenhagen
Cost: $10 million
Appearances in 2015-16: 3
That’s soooo Leicester: Described by Claudio Ranieri as Leicester’s “joker in the pack” because he can play in every position. Signed in January.

Name: Marcin Wasilweski
Age: 35
Previous club: Anderlechet
Cost: Free
Appearances in 2015-16: 2
That’s soooo Leicester: Turned up at Leicester in 2013 as a trialist when they were in the Championship.

Name: Gokhan Inler
Age: 31
Previous club: Napoli
Cost: $5 million
Appearances in 2015-16: 5
That’s soooo Leicester: Hasn’t featured much during his debut season in England but does spare with Olympic boxer Patrizio Oliva to keep himself fit.

Name: Jeff Schlupp
Age: 23
Previous club: Leicester
Appearances in 2015-16: 19
That’s soooo Leicester: Like King, the Ghanaian international has spent his entire career at Leicester.

Report: USMNT keeper Steffen to be Man City No. 2 next season

Zack Steffen Man City
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United States men’s national team starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen will not be loaned by Manchester City next season, according to ESPN.

Steffen, 25, is set to back up Ederson for Pep Guardiola’s side next season after a year on loan to Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga.

Steffen needed the loan because he had not yet qualified for a work permit in the United Kingdom. Instead, he starred in plenty of games for promoted Fortuna before suffering a nagging knee injury. Fortuna was relegated to 2.Bundesliga on the final day of the season.

[ MORE: Man City sets a very Pep record ]

There were rumors earlier this year that Claudio Bravo might head for New York City FC in MLS in order to make way for Steffen.

The 17-times capped USMNT bolted for Freiburg in Germany after making his name at the University of Maryland. He returned to the U.S. and became a star with savvy penalty-stopping ability with now-USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter and the Columbus Crew.

Guardiola has usually given his No. 2 plenty of time to shines in cup matches, and City expects to compete for every trophy it can. If the club’s European ban is upheld, however, there will far fewer matches on the schedule for the serial Champions League qualifier.

Sheffield United – Chelsea preview: How to watch, start time, stream, prediction

Sheffield United - Chelsea preview
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Sheffield United – Chelsea preview: Frank Lampard’s Chelsea begins life defending third place on the Premier League table when it visits Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday (Watch Live at 12:30 pm ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues’ 60 points are one more than Leicester City and two clear of old rivals Manchester United.

Also of interest to Chelsea and USMNT fans: The Blues have posted a 20-minute video of every Christian Pulisic touch since Project Restart began earlier this Summer.

Sheffield United beat Wolves at midweek to pull within a point of sixth-place. If Blades stumble, there are three teams within a win of pushing them back beneath the Europa League places.

STREAM SHEFFIELD UNITED – CHELSEA LIVE


Team news

Billy Gilmour is a doubt for Chelsea while Mateo Kovacic is back in training and could be available to Frank Lampard. N’Golo Kante remains out and Jorginho may get a Starting XI recall on Saturday.

John Fleck, Luke Freeman, and John Lundstram are out for Sheffield United while David McGoldrick is a question mark.

What they’re saying

Blades boss Wilder to our own JPW after a 1-0 win over Wolves: “We like to think we’ve brought something in terms of our attitude and our performances to get the results that we’ve got. We had a stretched squad and really had to dig in to get a result. I don’t think you get the result and the performance tonight if you haven’t got something with the ball and I think we did have something with the ball and out of it everybody did a job and tried to stop a very, very talented side from gaining momentum and dominating us. Second half, especially, we looked and it felt like we were really desperate to go and get a winner. Regardless of how late its come, we’ve been rewarded for that attitude.”

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard on Christian Pulisic earning Eden Hazard comparisons: “Having played with Eden, he had special talent straight away and draws players towards him to open up space to others. Christian is more direct. He has the ability to break a line and run forward which is a great trait in the modern game. Why I shy away from it the other night is because Eden has been here and done it over a period of time to an incredible level. Christian has it in his hands to make a real impact over time. It’s great to see him [doing well] but there’s a lot of development to come. Christian is taking responsibility to change games.”

Odds and ends (Full matchweek odds here)

The Blades are +575 underdogs according to DraftKings, with Chelsea -167.

A two-goal game for Tammy Abraham was only enough for a Chelsea point at Stamford Bridge when the sides met in a 2-2 draw earlier this season.

Prediction

Chelsea’s had one more days’ rest than the Blades and that seems plenty given the congestion this time of year. Give the Blues a 2-1 win.

How to watch Sheffield United – Chelsea

Kickoff: 12:30 pm ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBC
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Man United’s fear factor, title hopes return

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Manchester United have regained their fear factor since ‘Project Restart’ arrived.

The Red Devils beat Aston Villa 3-0 to become the first team in Premier League history to win four consecutive games by a margin of three of more goals.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Manchester United is an attacking juggernaut once again with Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford firing on all cylinders.

They are 17 games unbeaten in all competitions and this run means they are two points off third place and one point off fourth-place Leicester (who they play on the final day) as their quest for the Champions League looks likely to be successful.

Speaking after the game, Paul Pogba told Sky Sports that challenging for the Premier League has to be the standard Manchester United sets for itself.

After the win at Villa, ProSoccerTalk asked Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for his reaction to those comments.

“I’m sure Man United will mount a challenge and get back to winning the league. When that is going to happen, that is up to every single person here and how quickly we can make this process go. We are definitely improving as a team, developing but we have to remember we’ve come a long way in one season. Let’s just take Paul’s words into the dressing room and expect and demand more from each other every single day,” Solskjaer said.

This team is brimming with confidence and hunger, as they’ve scored 100 goals in all competitions this season and have playmakers and forwards who are creating 10 or 15 chances every game and have a largely sturdy defense.

When Manchester United turn up to play an opponent, there is now an inevitability they will win. Solskjaer knows all about that fear factor from his playing days, but does he feel other teams now fear them again?

“I don’t know about how teams feel when they want to play us but we scored three today and talking about goal difference, the defenders have done their job. We created chances and could have scored three, four or five more. Of course, you are happy with the way we create chances but we need to be more clinical though,” Solskjaer told ProSoccerTalk.

“Coming into half time 2-0 up, I don’t think our performance warranted a 2-0 lead but I thought second half we played really well. Of course we had the game where we wanted. They had to press and leave gaps and space but it is not easy, there is game after game  after game. We have to keep doing the right things on the pitch and off the pitch.”

Manchester United could easily finish this season by winning eight of their final nine games and it is these results against teams they ‘should’ be beating that will make the difference. Yes, they have a long way to go to reach the levels of Liverpool and Manchester City but they are on that path and making progress.

Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired the fear factor around Man United disappeared. Almost overnight teams felt like they could beat them, and did, under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

There have been shock defeats under Solskjaer too, but this feels different now. This feels different to brief winning spells and FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League trophies won under LVG and Mourinho.

This Man United side is relentless and Solskjaer not only wants to keep winning, but keep scoring goals too.

“We could have scored many, many more goals and we keep keeping clean sheets. We go into every game wanting to win. If you win 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0, it doesn’t matter, you get the points. Hopefully the goal difference won’t be the deciding factor in the end because we should have had 10 more goals the last few games,” Solskjaer said.

With Leicester City to come on the final day of the season in what could be the pivotal clash in deciding whether or not the qualify for the Champions League, the hunger and belief is evident among the Manchester United squad based on Pogba’s reaction.

“We are really pleased with ourselves but know we have to carry on. We talked before the game, we talked in training that we have to carry on. That’s what Manchester [United] is it is a big club. We want to keep the level up, always, and the performance today and the past few weeks, they are very good and they are the standards of Manchester United,” Pogba said. “We didn’t win the Premier League and that is the goal. We didn’t win anything this year. We have to keep working and there is a lot to do. A lot.”

Pogba: Manchester United hoping to win FA Cup, Europa League

Aston Villa - Manchester United recap
Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images
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Paul Pogba and Manchester United are cruising through matches and sending a message to the Premier League.

The Red Devils won by three-or-more goals for the fourth-straight match, something that hasn’t been done in the history of the PL, and moved within a point of fourth place thanks to a 3-0 demolition of Aston Villa at Villa Park on Thursday.

[ RECAP: Aston Villa 0-3 Man Utd ]

Injured for most of the year, Pogba scored his first goal of the season in the win. He’s been looking tremendous in the midfield since returning from the coronavirus pause, and has even triggered hope that he’ll sign a new long-term deal with United.

Pogba was asked how he’s feeling about his time at Old Trafford and where it may run:

“Right now I’ve been injured for a very long time,” Pogba said. “I focused on myself to get back and help the team as much as I can. This year I have two goals, to go for the Europa League and the FA Cup so we focus on that.”

United faces Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinal and has one foot, well, most of its body in the Europa League quarterfinals.

The Frenchman says it’s good that the Red Devils are playing as well as they have been, but he’s not getting carried away with accolades.

ASTON VILLA – MANCHESTER UNITED FULL MATCH REPLAY

“We didn’t win the Premier League,” he said. “That’s the goal. We didn’t win anything this year so obviously we have to keep working. There’s a lot to do.”

Pogba thinks United can achieve all of their season goals regardless of what the top four chasers do, but cautioned that the Red Devils cannot ignore their poor start to Thursday’s win.

“We are our own enemy. We have to play not like we did the first 15 minutes but how we finished the game.”