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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.

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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.

DC United acquires Julian Gressel from Atlanta

Atlanta United trades for Julian Gressel
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How much is Major League Soccer’s best assist man worth?

About $750,000.

DC United paid Atlanta United that fee in allocation money for the rights to Julian Gressel, who had been at a contract impasse with the club who drafted him in 2017.

That fee could hit $1.1 million in incentives, and even so could be a bargain.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Gressel was due to make around $133,000 this season and wanted an improved deal from Atlanta given his massive production since becoming the eighth overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.

That salary is less than hundreds of players, most of them nowhere near Gressel’s impact. Nineteen Atlanta United players made more than him last season, so it’s understandable that the 26-year-old wanted to get paid.

We don’t know what he was asking, or why Atlanta wouldn’t get there. From MLSSoccer.com:

“If we really wanted to, we could have had him play on $130,000 this season, extend him a bona fide offer at the end of the season and (we’d still own his MLS rights),” said Atlanta United vice president Carlos Bocanegra. “We’re also trying to do the right thing for a guy who has given so much to the club and is really just a good kid all around.”

It’s a weird one, given what the club’s been paying others.

Gressel arrived at Providence College from Eintracht Bamberg and immediately started delivering for the Big East side. He finished his four years with 30 goals and 26 assists and All-American status.

There was some adapting to MLS, but he’s gotten better with every season. He scored 10 goals with 13 assists in all competitions last season.

Spurs chairman reportedly met with Real Madrid about Gareth Bale

AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
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As a neutral, the idea of Gareth Bale rejoining Tottenham Hotspur would be a delight to our Premier League matchday viewing.

Obviously this applies to Spurs fans to the nth degree, especially after a dull 0-0 with Watford at the weekend.

In the short-term, Bale would be a terrific stopgap as Spurs struggle to find themselves without Harry Kane in both the PL and Champions League.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

In the long-term, Bale and Heung-Min Son on the wings of Harry Kane would be enough to make any PL power trio blush (unless Liverpool really does add Timo Werner).

A report out of Spain says Real Madrid president Florentino Perez met with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy about several things including the availability of Bale.

The Welsh star has been long admired by Jose Mourinho, and of course knows Spurs well having become a superstar after arriving from Southampton.

Bale is 30 and his wages would easily top Spurs’ pay list. His 21 goals and nine assists in the 2012/13 Premier League season join his 19 and 11 in 2015 La Liga as his top league seasons.

Spurs host Norwich City on Wednesday (Watch live at 2:30 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

Guardiola praises Laporte, “the best left central defender in the world”

Pep Guardiola praises Aymeric Laporte
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
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Manchester City kept its first clean sheet of 2020 on Tuesday, posting a 1-0 win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

It took the two-time reigning Premier League champions six tries to get there, the previous zero coming against this same Blades side at the Etihad Stadium.

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City manager Pep Guardiola was quick to give credit to a returning hero, as center back Aymeric Laporte returned to the fold for the first time since Aug. 31.

The club was 3W-1D at that point. They went 12W-2D-5L without him.

Here’s Guardiola, from the Manchester Evening News:

“It’s incredible,” Guardola said. “We have missed him a lot, he’s the best left central defender in the world. Imagine the best teams in the world lose their best central defender. We miss him a lot because he’s a specialist left foot where our buildup. He is fast, strong in the air.”

“He has something that we don’t have in the squad. His left foot and many actions to build up to make it quicker and better – we don’t have it, not because the other ones are not good but he has the only left foot as a central defender and for the way we want to play that is so important. His character and mentality and winning, he has all the attributes. For me, when he is fit he is the best left central defender in the world.”

If you read that as a little bit of an explanation for City being 13 points off Liverpool, you’ve similar eyes to us.

Pep is asking how Liverpool would look without Virgil Van Dijk, how Real Madrid appears when Sergio Ramos is out.

It’s not the be-all, end-all, but as I wrote when Laporte went down, this is the key piece to their defending efforts as well as where they begin possession.

We’re also grateful that Guardiola didn’t drop some sort of, “He’s like a January transfer addition,” statement (at least as far as we’ve read.

Chelsea admit they miss USMNT’s Pulisic

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LONDON — Since USMNT star Christian Pulisic was injured in training in the first week of January, Chelsea have lost against Newcastle, drawn with Arsenal and blown away Burnley.

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In the two games where they’ve dropped points they’ve missed Pulisic’s genius in the final third with both Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi easily shackled by Arsenal in their London derby. Chelsea admitted as much when speaking after the 2-2 draw against Arsenal on Tuesday, an Arsenal side who played with 10 men for over 60 minutes of the game.

Asked by Pro Soccer Talk about Pulisic’s adductor injury and if they missed him during the draw against Arsenal, downbeat Chelsea boss Frank Lampard noted that Pulisic, 21, was “playing really well” before his injury.

“Yeah, a game like today could have been a good where he would have been helpful for us because he was playing well for a patch. But other people have to stand up in those situations,” Lampard said.

When will Pulisic be back?

Lampard confirmed he is making good progress but will not be fit until after the mid-season player break in February, which means he will miss their FA Cup trip to Hull City this Saturday and their clash at Leicester City on Feb. 1. He may not be back until Feb. 17 when they host Manchester United in the Premier League, which means in total he will have been out for a period of six weeks.

“In terms of when he’s back, it is not going to be a week, it is probably be the other end of the early February break but he is getting better and he isn’t far away,” Lampard said.

Speaking to Pro Soccer Talk pitch-side at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta, who scored their late second goal which looked like being the winner, lavished praise on Pulisic when asked about his absence over the last week.

“Christian is a magnificent player. Since he joined us in the summer he has shown us his potential and we know that he can make the difference at any time. Whenever a player is injured it is not good for a team because we lose potential and I hope to have him back soon,” Azpilicueta said.

Chelsea’s skipper is expecting big things from Pulisic when he does return to fitness, as the fourth-place Blues now have just a six-point cushion to those outside of the top four and have played a game more.

It seems like everyone at Chelsea hopes the USMNT star can rejuvenate their attack in the final months of the season.

“After coming to Europe as a young boy to Germany, he came to Chelsea and it is one step forward, playing for Chelsea every game, fighting to win and fighting for trophies,” Azpilicueta said. “In my role I’ve tried to help in settle into the city and the club. He has a brilliant attitude. Always trying to improve. I am sure he will become bigger and bigger.”