Biggest party in Leicester’s history gets fairytale ending

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LEICESTER — From the moment the sun came up until the moment it went down, May 7, 2016 will live in the memory of Leicester City fans forever.

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Scratch that. It’s a day citizens of Leicester will never forget.

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From flares being let off in the street in the morning, to dance parties and spraying champagne outside the King Power Stadium before the game, the entire Midlands city of just over 300,000 people came to a standstill to salute their champions.

On Saturday Leicester City’s captain Wes Morgan lifted the Premier League trophy into the air to mark the Foxes’ first top-flight title win in their 132-year history. They were supposed to get relegated this season but shocked everyone to win it all. This felt like a scene from a movie.

It felt like Leicester was at the center of the universe. It probably was. It was the greatest day in their history.

With the sun beating down on Leicester, the party was in full swing from way before midday. Banners of every player and the manager adorned lamp posts along the main city streets and messages from national bookmakers Ladbrokes proudly stated “Congratulations, Leicester City! We’ve paid out £3 million” in their shop window near Leicester market.

Of course, I’m sure you don’t need reminding, but Leicester were 5000-1 to win the PL title before this season began. They’ve lost just three games out of 37 so far this season and have become the first new champion of England since Nottingham Forest in 1978. They’ve come from nowhere to inspire the world that true underdog stories can still happen as they’ve defied the powerful and wealthy elite of the Premier League.

I spoke to one Leicester fan who was choking up as he sipped on a beer and took in the sights around him. He was in his 60s and even though he’d had five days for it to sink in, he couldn’t believe it.

A group of lads I sat with in a pub in the center of town just sat there with massive grins on their faces.

Every direction you looked in you saw signs marking Leicester’s title win, in shop windows, hanging from churches, at the train station, car windows had flags hanging out of them. Since they won the title on Monday night courtesy of Tottenham Hotspur drawing at Chelsea, the last five days has been one huge party.

Leicester fans told me that they took it easier after Tuesday and were saving themselves for Saturday. It certainly looked like that.

As I walked through the streets, Leicester City’s flag was flying on the famous cathedral, fans were hanging out in pubs and a mob of Italian supporters who had flown over from Italy to salute Ranieri were rampaging around town.

Speaking to some of Ranieri’s Italian fans, they told me they flew in this morning from all over Italy to witness this moment. They wanted to salute what their countryman had achieved.

Walking the streets from the central area just over a mile to the King Power Stadium, cars along the way honked their horns and families walked to the stadium together with huge smiles on their faces. The local pubs were packed to the rafters with Kasabian, the city’s favorite rock band, blaring out of the speakers. Everyone said similar things: “I can’t believe this is happening!” and “Is this real?”

Leicester must have been the happiest city on the planet on Saturday. I’m sure of it.

Outside the stadium the local Sikh community were handing out free food and providing entertainment, a gospel choir was in full flow and thousands of fans who couldn’t get tickets to the game — some tickets were being sold for around $10,000 each by scalpers — partied in the streets. Free pizza, beer and crisps (potato chips) were given out to home fans and even though the heavens opened and a huge rain storm rolled in an hour before kick off, the party went on. Nothing could dampen the spirits of the people of Leicester.

Leicester is a hugely multicultural city and people of different faith and race spoke to me about how this day, this team, this title had brought all of the people of the city together.

32,140 fans packed into the stadium and were given a real treat from start to finish.

Andrea Bocelli brought the house down with his pregame performance on the pitch as the legendary Italian tenor stood side-by-side with Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri who had arranged the impromptu gig. It was spine-tingling.

Cries of “Champions of England, we know what we are!” and “Stand up for the Champions!” began early and Leicester’s fans went through the full repertoire of songs, lauding Ranieri for taking their team to the UEFA Champions League and soon they were singing the famous “Jamie Vardy‘s having a party!” song.

Vardy — as he likes to do — started the party early with a neat finish from Andy King‘s pinpoint cross and then King himself, the man who’s been with Leicester since their days in the third-tier, got in on the act as he added a second.

The Mexican wave then came out as the party atmosphere was cranked up a few notches despite the pouring rain and thunder and lightning overhead.

Leicester were rampant, going close through Riyad Mahrez, Wes Morgan and Vardy again, with the Foxes marking their special day with a special performance against a subpar Everton.

At half time Leicester lad Mark Selby, who won the Snooker World Championship on the same night Leicester won the PL, was paraded around the pitch along with former legends such as Gordon Banks.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Leicester City supporters enjoy the atmosphere prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Everton at The King Power Stadium on May 7, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

In the second half Vardy added another from the penalty spot and then Everton’s woeful defense gave away another penalty which Vardy this time ballooned over as he missed the chance to grab a hat trick. That would have been too perfect, wouldn’t it? Late on Kevin Mirallas pulled one back as the game ended 3-1. In truth, nobody cared about the action on the pitch.

One more rendition of “Championes, championes, ole, ole, ole!” was belted out in stoppage time as the final whistle saw incredible celebrations in the stands and on the pitch.

When the game was over the moment everybody had really turned up for arrived.

At 7:40 pm local time, Morgan stood tall and proud as he clutched the PL trophy and thrust it into the air with Ranieri and his teammates by his side.

The fans went wild. The world watched on. Leicester City were crowned Premier League champions on a day the Midlands city will never, ever forget.

It was a perfect day to cap a fairytale season and as fans streamed out of the King Power the party was set to continue long into the night. It probably won’t stop for weeks, if not months. The magnitude of what this city in Leicestershire has witnessed over the past nine months is indescribable. We may never see a more unpredictable title win in Premier League history. This may well be the best moment in PL history.

And Leicester will likely never, ever see another party like this.

Crystal Palace – Everton: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

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Crystal Palace – Everton: It’s a battle of perfect teams on Saturday when Everton visits Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park (Watch live at 10 am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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The Eagles have knocked off Southampton and Manchester United to open their 2020-21 Premier League season while Everton has handled Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion.

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Two legends of the game will be at the helm when Roy Hodgson and Carlo Ancelotti match wits on Saturday. Can the former continue to coax unexpected results of his Eagles against the strengthened and powerful Toffees?


Team news: Crystal Palace – Everton (INJURY REPORT)

James Tomkins (thigh), Nathan Ferguson (knee), Patrick van Aanholt (shoulder), Christian Benteke (ankle), Gary Cahill (thigh) and Jairo Riedewald (undisclosed) are all set to miss out for Roy Hodgson’s Eagles.

Fabian Delph returned for the midweek League Cup game but Everton won’t have Jarrad Branthwaite (ankle), Mason Holgate (ankle), Cenk Tosun (knee), and Jean-Philippe Gbamin (calf).


What they’re saying

Roy Hodgson on how the Eagles won (again) at Old Trafford: “We made certain and kept them playing in front of us and they could not profit from those spaces they are skillful enough to find. And when we had the ball I thought we looked very dangerous and threatening so I don’t think it was a big surprise that we scored three.”

Carlo Ancelotti after Jordan Pickford made a gaffe against Fleetwood Town: “I think the first goal was not an individual mistake because we passed the ball back to Jordan, it was a really difficult ball and we could behave differently. Of course you have to improve there. We want to build up from the back, but when there’s no risk. If it’s risky it’s no good because we can concede a goal like we did. It can be a good lesson for the future. I didn’t speak to him and, as I said, I have to speak with players that were involved when we build-up.Jordan was not the only one.”

Jordan Pickford
FLEETWOOD, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 23: Jordan Pickford of Everton is challenged by Josh Morris of Fleetwood Town (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images).

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Palace is an underdog despite beating United and it’s perhaps a bit surprising to see them at +275 with a draw at +220. An Everton win delivers +110.

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Crystal Palace – Everton prediction

Hodgson has coaxed some tremendous midfield performances out of James McArthur, James McCarthy, and Luka Milivojevic in his tenure at Palace but out-performing Abdoulaye Doucoure, Allan, and Andre Gomes is a big ask even for that steely crew. James Rodriguez is in incredible form but so is Wilfried Zaha. Couldn’t this one go either way? Yes, but if Everton’s moving in the direction many believe it will be able to take all three points in a composed 2-1 win.


How to watch Crystal Palace – Everton stream and start time

Kickoff: 10 am ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Brighton – Manchester United: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

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Brighton – Manchester United: Impressive Brighton and Hove Albion hopes to continue Manchester United’s winless league season when the Red Devils visit the Amex Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

It will be the first two meetings in several days, as Brighton’s win at Preston North End and United’s takedown of Luton Town set up a League Cup fourth round date at the Amex.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

United handled Brighton well last season, winning 3-1 and 3-0, so this will be a great test at the acumen of both managers: Graham Potter in his second full season with the Seagulls and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attempting to prove his doubters wrong.


Team news: Brighton – Manchester United (INJURY REPORT)

The Seagulls will not have Yves Bissouma, who was suspended three matches for his no-look, studs-up kick into the face of Newcastle defender Jamal Lewis. Brighton manager Graham Potter revealed that the long-term recovery of Jose Izquierdo is about two weeks away from being complete.

Manchester United will be without Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones.


What they’re saying

Potter on the League Cup win setting up consecutive Man United tests: “It’s a big week for us with those two matches and then Everton before the international break. That’s what we wanted because we wanted to go through in this competition. Players always want to play and the best thing for them is to be out on the field on nights like tonight to keep everyone in the group ready for when they’re needed. You saw that today. There was a willingness to run and fight for the team and get the result and that’s why I’m very happy.”

United’s Solskjaer after goalkeeper Dean Henderson starred on his senior debut: “The goalkeeping department and training level has been really high, of course, you can see driven and dedicated people and I’ve enjoyed watching them. Dean in goal, good save, you can see he’s having to concentrate and it’s a different job to what he’s done a few times last season and he came up with the save when he had to.”

League Cup results
LUTON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 22: Dean Henderson of Manchester United saves a shot at Kenilworth Road (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Brighton is +375 to win at home, while a draw nets the wagerer +260. Manchester United is expected to win and thusly -130 to take all three points.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Brighton – Manchester United prediction

The only thing keeping us from pegging a very impressive Brighton team to collect another win is the shadow cast by Manchester United’s 2019-20 season (and long tradition of winning). United was rusty in its loss to Crystal Palace and had to work hard to defeat Luton Town in the League Cup. If that rust was there last week, how do the legs feel after a week? Anyway, the Red Devils still have Bruno Fernandes and it just doesn’t seem like this team starts 0-2 (or even 0-1-1). I grimace as I write 2-1 to Manchester United.


How to watch Brighton – Manchester United stream and start time

Kickoff: 7:30 am ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Lampard gushes after Thiago Silva debut, Havertz hat trick

Frank Lampard reaction
Photo by ALASTAIR GRANT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
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Chelsea rebounded from its weekend loss to Liverpool by getting the good vibes going through a number of new faces Wednesday in a League Cup blowout of Barnsley.

Kai Havertz scored three times, Ben Chilwell came off the bench to chip in an assist on debut, and Thiago Silva went 60 minutes in his first match in a Chelsea shirt as the Blues pounded the Championship side 6-0.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

We’ll start with the longtime PSG defender, who had four clearances, an interception, and a tackle while winning both of his duels.

He passed at 94 percent including six-of-seven long balls. Even accounting for the competition, that’s solid.

Lampard called Silva’s outing “a perfect 60 minutes” via Football.London:

“He also gave us something for me on the night in the dressing room and on the pitch of a leader with authority in terms of his demands on others,” Lampard said. “He can’t speak the language but at the minute that’s not even a problem because his presence and the way he commands people around him is already showing that to me in training and in our game tonight. Yes, I am very very pleased with Thiago. It is what I expected of a player of his level but it is very refreshing to have him here at the club.”

ProSoccerTalk talked about Chelsea’s need for a leader at the back during this week’s “Unfiltered,” and Lampard has clearly been waiting for someone like Silva.

As for Havertz, you only needed the box score to see his influence on the game.

Two of Havertz’s three goals were assisted by Tammy Abraham and a third from Mason Mount.

The German phenom also racked up five tackles and two key passes against Barnsley.

“He makes the recovery tackle for Ross (Barkley)’s goal, but then to also just have some freedom on the ball in central areas roaming behind Tammy,” Lampard said. “The combinations he had with Tammy, the way he grew into the game and had confidence and the three goals. It was a great night for Kai and the first of many for him.”

Havertz scored seven braces for Bayer Leverkusen, but this was his first hat trick. Barnsley may play in the second tier, but they had allowed three goals in their last four games.

Whoops.

Actors Reynolds, McElhenney bid to invest in Wrexham AFC

Wrexham AFC
Photos by Amy Sussman/Getty Images and Jim Spellman/WireImage
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“The Gang Buys a Football Team?”

“It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” actor Rob McElhenney and “Deadpool” star Ryan Reynolds are said to be in talks to buy National League side Wrexham AFC, reports The Guardian.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

The Welsh club, nicknamed the Red Dragons, was founded in 1864 and made it to the European Cup Winners’ Cup eight times between 1972-96.

They’ve since been relegated out of the Football League, dipping out of League Two in 2008.

McElhenney and Reynolds have bid to take over the club, and the Wrexham Supporters Trust says 97.5 percent of their members voted to allow the actors to propose their vision for the club before a second vote.

From wst.org.uk:

As a result, talks with the proposed bidders will now continue and we are in a position to confirm the two people interested in investing in Wrexham AFC.

Rob McElhenney is an American actor, director, producer and screenwriter, best known as the creator of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Ryan Reynolds is an award-winning Canadian actor, writer, producer and business entrepreneur whose credits include Marvel’s Deadpool.

It’s gotta get McElhenney’s goat that Reynolds gets the “award-winning” adjective added to his name.

Either way, this is definitely an intriguing club for investment and the potential addition of Reynolds and McElhenney to the fray would only increase the interest in Wrexham AFC.

Deadpool and Mac would be quite a combo in the transfer market.