Top Foxes: Which Leicester players shine brightest in the fairytale?

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Riyad Mahrez won the PFA Player of the Year award for this Premier League season as the award understandably went to a member of Leicester City.

But did it go to the right one?

The sensational Mahrez is most certainly in the discussion, but what about Jamie “Fantastic Horse” Vardy or N’Golo “Battery Pants” Kante?

And then there’s the center back pair critics just can’t divide (in terms of importance), and a pair of Manchester United cast-offs playing every match. Oh, and a legendary Red Devils’ son.

[ MORE: UEFA Champions League semifinal preview ]

So who would be crazy enough to make an attempt to rank the most valuable members of the title run? Pro Soccer Talk. Duh.

Nine players have appeared in at least 33 of Leicester’s PL matches this season, although one of those Foxes — Shinji Okazaki — has played less minutes than Danny Simpson (27 matches) and Christian Fuchs (29 minutes).

And with respect to Leonardo Ulloa, who has several high-profile Leicester moments, and

To avoid making a distinction between the two, we will limit our ranking to the remaining eight (at the expense of Okazaki, Simpson and Fuchs).

8. Marc Albrighton

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)
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Crosses for days: Albrighton had an early season knack for gorgeous, sweeping assists. Not as clinical in possession or defending, though, and that slots him 8th.

7. Danny Drinkwater

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 03: Wes Morgan of Leicester City (5) celebrates with team mate Danny Drinkwater 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)
(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Doesn’t make as many spectacular, awe-inspiring plays as his midfield mate Kante, but is a steadying part of the force who’s opened the eyes of England manager Roy Hodgson.

6. Robert Huth

during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Newcastle United at The King Power Stadium on March 14, 2016 in Leicester, England.
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A friend of mine who’s been getting into the Premier League more because of the Leicester story calls the big German back the “Chris Pronger of the Premier League”, and any hockey fan can tell you what that means. Big and nasty, and a threat at both ends of the pitch.

5. Kasper Schmeichel

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 03: Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel of Leicester City attempts to punch clear from Graziano Pelle 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 Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

It wasn’t too long ago that his last name was more interesting to neutrals than his status as a starting goalkeeper. Schmeichel has played in every match for Leicester, and is a Top Ten goalkeeper in the PL.

4. Jamie Vardy

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 03: Jamie Vardy of Leicester City controls the ball 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 Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

We know, we know: the striker who set a record for most successive goals is fourth on our list. His 22 goals and 8 assists account for close to 50 percent of the Foxes’ 63 goals, and who knows how high that figure rises when you consider his relentless energy and pressure have caused many a turnover. Not bad for a kid from Stocksbridge Park Steels’ youth set-up.

3. Wes Morgan

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England.
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Leicester didn’t keep its first clean sheet until Week 10, and has just two before Christmas. The English-born Jamaican international has been instrumental in most of the 12 clean sheets that have come since, as the Foxes have allowed multiple goals just three times in 2016. Marshall.

2. Riyad Mahrez

West Ham United v Leicester City - Premier League
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The 17-goal man’s best league scoring outputs before this season were 13- and 11- goal seasons… for Le Havre II. This season, he’s been off the charts in terms of electricity in attack.

MVP: N’Golo Kante

 during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and West Ham United at The King Power Stadium on April 17, 2016 in Leicester, England.
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There are many reasons Mahrez won PFA Player of the Year, but his gaudy numbers tipped the scales. Traditional statistics don’t tell us everything, though, and if you’re talking about open market value for a player we believe Kante would fetch the most. We’ve written about his value at length here, as Leicester’s counterattacking approach needs an interceptor and a facilitator. He does both.

Agree? Disagree? Vote on your Leicester MVP here:

Court date for USWNT’s law suit versus U.S. Soccer delayed

USWNT equal pay
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A court case that has dragged U.S. Soccer’s administration through the mud and led to a change of leadership may drag into the summer.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A judge in California has delayed the May 5 trial of gender discrimination against the USSF until June 16 due in part to the coronavirus pandemic. A pretrial conference was also moved to June 1.

The federation is being sued by members of the two-time reigning World Cup champion USWNT under the Equal Pay Act.

The women are requesting more than $66 million in damages.

The extra month gives both parties more time to reach a settlement which could keep this ugly case away from trial. Given the uncertainty in our world, it could of course be delayed again.

The USSF has a new CEO in Will Wilson, who can make a major statement of change by stopping the trial from reaching court.

Handicapping the Final Four of Premier League March Madness

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Our Premier League March Madness results have been as topsy-turvy as the 2019/20 on-field campaign before coronavirus halted it last month.

Yes, the runaway No. 1 seed is alive, but the second, third, fourth, and fifth seeds have been expelled from the tournament within the first two rounds.

Voting in the semifinal round begins Thursday.

[ RESULTS: March Madness Round of 16 ]

Before we go any further, if you’re unfamiliar: To make sure you’re not missing out on either March Madness or the business end of the PL season, we’ve gone ahead and merged the two competitions. The March Madness Final Four and Championship game were due to take place this weekend in Atlanta but now you will be voting on Tottenham v. Arsenal instead of Duke v. Kansas.

Teams are seeded from 1-16 based on their current spot in the table, with Aston Villa winning the relegation playoffs on Monday to remain in the Premier League.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Before we handicap the semifinal matches, let’s take a look at where the field sits after your Wednesday voting.

No. 1 Liverpool v. No. 12 Everton
No. 6 Wolves v. No. 7 Sheffield United

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Look, all bets are off for the derby. The Everton faithful has shown up in a big way during voting, dispatching Manchester United and Chelsea.

That’s big time stuff, though Liverpool ended the dreams of our presumptive sleeping giant favorite Arsenal after beating West Ham in the Sweet Sixteen.

The Reds are going to have to not just been upstart Everton but overcome the legions of rival supporters who would happily click the Toffees’ box rather than see Liverpool gain the crown.

The other side of the bracket sees No. 7 Sheffield United looking to continue its surprising run in both the PL season and our voting.

The Blades knocked off Man City, potentially aided by the same phenomenon Everton hopes to see on Thursday.

Now they meet Wolves, who may be riding a crest of North American momentum in the form of affinity for El Tri hero Raul Jimenez.

Our prediction: Everton and Wolves in the Final.

RESULTS: Premier League March Madness Elite Eight

Premier League March Madness
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Everton continued its upset path toward in our Premier League March Madness voting, showing its sensational support and setting up a fantastic eMerseyside Derby in the Final Four.

Thousands of votes were cast Wednesday, and the Toffees upset isn’t even the top underdog story.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Chris Wilder’s Blades of Sheffield United won a back-and-forth affair with No. 2 seed Manchester City to move into the semifinals.

That’s where they’ll meet No. 6 seed Wolves, who powered past Leicester City as if it wasn’t a challenge.

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
TuesdaySweet 16 results in full
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

IFAB: New handball rule can be adopted when games resume

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The International Football Association Board (IFAB) issued a letter from secretary Lukas Brud on Wednesday, outlining several changes to the game.

The “tee shirt line” handball rule may be coming to club football quicker than expected due to the coronavirus suspension of the 2019/20 season.

IFAB will allow leagues the choice to use the new handball rule when matches resume this season, also making changes to VAR protocol and vowing to review the offside rule.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The new handball rule states that the shoulder goes to the end of the shirt sleeve or the bottom of the armpit (though obviously not in the case of a long-sleeve jersey).

For the purposes of determining handball offences, the ‘arm’ stops at the bottom of the armpit

So… get ready for baggy, longer jersey sleeves, or the increased recruitment of players with the longest armpits.

Kidding aside, the handball rule desperately needed clarification and we’ll see if this gives enough to fans and players alike.

Referees will now be “expected” to go to the screen on the field when a call is subjective, forcing the official to either uphold or overrule his initial call.

This same post says IFAB will now allow accidental handballs in the run-up to a goal in certain situations.

“Accidental handball by an attacking player should only be penalized if it ‘immediately’ results in a goal or an obvious opportunity for the player and/or their team to score a goal (i.e. following the handball, the ball travels only a short distance and/or there are very few passes).”

Well, that needs some clarification.

Back to the timing issue for the new handball rule, it seems logical that leagues would want to introduce new laws with a new season but stand-by for the decision of your favorite league.

As for the offside rule, “The members agreed that the fundamental philosophy of offside is underpinned by a desire to encourage attacking football and the scoring of goals. It was further agreed, therefore, that Law 11 – Offside should be analyzed and reviewed with a view to potentially proposing changes reflecting this philosophy.”

It’s a lot to unpack, and we’ll surely here from proponents and opponents of the changes soon. As always, implementation will make the biggest difference in how these changes are received.