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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.

Cruzeiro relegated from Brazilian top flight for first time

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Brazilian side Cruzeiro was relegated from the top flight for the first time in the club’s 98-year history following a 2-0 defeat to Palmeiras on the final day of the season.

Cruzeiro required victory and a loss by Ceara at Botafogo to stay safely in the Brazilian Serie A, but neither came to pass.

Palmeiras midfielder Ze Rafael scored in the 58th minute to send the visitors on their way, with fellow midfielder Dudu finished things off in the 84th minute. Referees ushered the players off the field immediately after the conclusion of the match as Cruzeiro fans rioted in the Mineirao stadium, ripping out seats, setting off smoke bombs, and clashing with police.

Cruzeiro finished 17th in the 20-team table, three points back of Ceara in 16th. In the Brazilian top flight, the bottom four teams are relegated. CSA, Chapecoense, and Avai were also relegated. Cruzeiro had won the Brazilian Serie A as recently as 2013 and 2014, winning four titles in its history. They also have six Copa do Brasil titles, most recently winning the league cup in 2017 and 2018.

Flamengo ran away with the championship, finishing on 90 points, 16 points clear of second-placed Santos and third-placed Palmeiras who both finished level on 74 points. Palmeiras had challenged for the title, but fell off at the end of the season with a five-match winless run through November.

Premier League Preview: West Ham United v. Arsenal

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Two struggling London sides meet Monday when West Ham United hosts Arsenal (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The sides might’ve expected they’d be within close proximity at this point on the fixture list, but two wildly disappointing seasons means the three points between the Gunners and Irons comes with the former in 11th and the latter 16th.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It’s been nine matches since Arsenal beat someone, 11 since it happened in the Premier League. West Ham hasn’t been much better, winning once in its last 10.

Freddie Ljungberg has yet to win as Arsenal interim boss, while West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini could see his current stint in London end without more results like the Nov. 30 win at Chelsea.

Monday versus Arsenal would qualify.


Injuries/suspensions

West Ham United: OUT —  Jack Wilshere, Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid. QUESTIONABLE — Michail Antonio.

Arsenal: OUT — Dani Ceballos. QUESTIONABLE — Rob Holding.


Probable lineups

West Ham United: Martin; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Fredericks; Rice, Noble, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Snodgrass, Haller.

Arsenal: Leno; Kolasinac, Sokratis, Luiz, Bellerin, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette.


What they’re saying

West Ham’s Antonio sees an opportunity: “The only three teams that are really performing are Liverpool, Leicester and Man City. Everyone else is getting beaten, and it means we’ve had a missed opportunity so far this season. We started the season off brightly, the best start we’ve had for four years, but then we’ve had a slump. Everyone’s having a slump and this is our slump. Now it’s time for us to start turning up. We’ve been in this situation before and we know how to dig in and pull ourselves up again.”

Arsenal’s Ljungberg on setting targets: “I don’t think we should stop talking about the top four, but for us it’s about concentrating on what we’re doing here now and not look up, down, sideways. We just need to work on our own game and our own confidence.”


Prediction

Really, you wouldn’t want to predict anything from these sides right now besides goals. We’ll give an edge in desperation to the hosts and a 2-2 draw.

La Liga: Sevilla held at Osasuna, Getafe maintains UCL fight

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Sevilla was held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Osasuna on Sunday, giving both Real Madrid and Barcelona space at the top of the La Liga table.

Munir El Haddadi put the visitors 1-0 up just 11 minutes in, but Ezequiel Avila struck just before halftime to share the points. Sevilla was held to just two total shots through the opening 45 minutes, and despite Osasuna defender Oier Olazabal being shown a second yellow card with 29 minutes to go, Sevilla still managed just 11 total efforts through the 90 minutes, with four on target.

Getafe continued its battle for a top four spot as they won 1-0 on the road at Eibar. Angel Rodriguez bagged his eighth goal of the season to secure the win, cropping up in the 67th minute to finally put Getafe through. They had been turning the screw for some time, forcing Marko Dmitrovic into a pair of big saves just before the opener which came from an absurdly tight angle after Angel had rounded the goalkeeper. The win leaves them fourth, level with Real Sociedad on 27 points.

They were allowed to close the gap after Real Sociedad was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw at 14th placed Real Valladolid. The visitors put just two of their 14 shots on net, and dropped to fifth thanks to Getafe holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Athletic Club also fell back in the race for a top four spot, dropping a 3-2 decision on the road at Real Betis. Joaquin scored a first-half hat-trick, with all three goals coming in the opening 20 minutes to give him five in his last three games. Inaki Williams brought Athletic Bilbao one back before halftime from the spot, and Yuri Berchiche made things interesting with a minute to go, but that was all they could muster as the visitors fell to sixth on 26 points, above Atletico Madrid on goal differential with the two yet to play head-to-head.

Celta Vigo made it interesting as Iago Aspas scored a man-down goal, but Leganes held on for a 3-2 win over the 10-man visitors. Oscar Rodriguez had a first-half brace to help the hosts to a 3-0 lead, but Nestor Araujo and Aspas helped Celta Vigo make things interesting. Still, a 71st minute second yellow card for halftime substitute Gabriel Fernandez hampered the visitors in their efforts for a comeback, leaving Celta Vigo in the relegation zone, a point back of safety, with Leganes is four points behind them in 19th.

Gerrard reacts to Rangers’ Old Firm heartbreak in final

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Steven Gerrard lined his Rangers side up for success, but fate was cruel to the Liverpool legend.

Rangers lost the League Cup Final to their Old Firm rivals on Sunday despite out-shooting the Bhoys by a 16-5 margin, winning a penalty, and playing almost a half-hour up a man.

[ RECAP: Rangers 0-1 Celtic ]

“To a man we were very good … by much the better side,” Gerrard said. “But unfortunately that’s not what gets you a trophy.”

But Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Alfredo Morelos’ penalty, three minutes after goal scorer Christopher Jullien was offside on the lone goal of the game.

Scotland doesn’t yet use VAR, and Gerrard doesn’t love VAR but he likes it more than he likes Scottish officials.

“There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR,” he said, via the BBC. “I’d be a liar if I said I was 100% in favour of it, but the one thing I do know is that officials up here need support.”

Now he has the task of getting his men to rebound ahead of its biggest non-derby in ages, as Rangers need at least a draw against Young Boys at home on Thursday to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds

“It’s a bit raw right now… It’s up to me to pick the players up. One thing I will say is I’ll stay with these players on the evidence of today because they gave me absolutely everything. We might have to suffer a bit short-term. I need to pick them up a bit physically and mentally for Thursday which is huge but our day will come on the evidence of today.”

Gerrard has done a very good job with Rangers, who are two points back of Celtic in a two-horse race for the Scottish top flight title. Celtic has won eight-straight titles to improve their total to 50, four less than the Rangers.