Leicester City is hurtling towards relegation. Why?

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The “r word” is being mentioned a lot around the reigning Premier League champions.

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Rightly so, relegation is on the minds of everyone involved with Leicester City with 14 games of the Premier League season to go.

Leicester were blown away by Manchester United 3-0 on Sunday, leaving Claudio Ranieri‘s side just two points off the bottom of the table after four-straight defeats which has seen them concede 10 goals and score zero.

Speaking to Sky Sports following their humbling defeat against United, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel admitted Leicester is in freefall.

“We’re the reigning champions but quite frankly it’s been terrible,” Schmeichel said. “Every player is hurting. It’s not a situation that is comfortable. It’s time for everyone to stand up and be counted because if we don’t we’re going to end up getting relegated.”

Let’s break this down. What the heck is going on?

  • Leicester’s defense suddenly looks porous with Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs not looking anywhere near their levels of last season as they recorded shutout after shutout. They conceded 36 goals last season in 38 PL games. They’ve already conceded 41 in 24 games this season
  • They sold N'Golo Kante to Chelsea. His absence in midfield can’t be understated. Simple
  • Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have scored eight PL goals between them in the PL so far and are severely out of form. They had 41 PL goals between them last season
  • Prioritizing the UEFA Champions League over PL in the early months of the season was acceptable but those dropped points are now catching up with them
  • They have yet to win a Premier League game away from home this season
  • Distractions of the FA Cup and UCL Round of 16 are coming up in February, which will cause more rotation to the team and complicate the situation further

So, the main thing here is that there is plenty of reasons why the reigning champs are hurtling towards relegation at a rapid rate.

Ranieri has also had to deal with player unrest as Leonardo Ulloa was denied a move away on Deadline Day despite saying he wouldn’t play for the club again, and there are rumblings that he’s started to lose the dressing room less than 12 months after delivering one of the greatest title victories in sporting history. Ranieri is under pressure and defeat at Swansea in their next game, plus a first leg defeat to Sevilla in the UCL, will surely seal his fate.

Football is fickle, but results talk.

Leicester’s manager admitted recently that the chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was unhappy and demanded they get to 40 points as soon as possible. How on earth are Leicester going to do that?

Their next six PL games will define not only their season but also their foreseeable future. An away trip to in-form Swansea is next up, followed by hosting Liverpool and Hull City, then they travel to Arsenal and West Ham before hosting Stoke on Apr. 1.

By April Fools Day we will see if the reigning champs have been turned into fools and are embroiled in a relegation battle for the final six weeks of the 2016-17 season. If Leicester do go down then they’ll also face a huge financial crisis as they dished out massive contracts to players in the title-winning squad. Vardy and Mahrez are both on over $130,000 per week, while many more are close to the $100,000 mark.

Leicester won’t want to think about those implications right now but reality may have hit home: they pulled off an incredible feat when the perennial giants of English soccer had a down year last season, but when you look at their squad they’re probably where they should be. Midtable at best. That’s the harsh reality.

On the day Leicester lifted the PL trophy last season against Everton in May, I spoke to many Leicester fans in and around the King Power Stadium who said they didn’t care if the Foxes were relegated next season.

I wonder what they think now…

Barcelona ends contract with company accused of fake posts

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona has ended its contract with a company that made negative comments on social media about people within the club.

Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu said Tuesday the decision was made after the club found out that one of its service providers used an account to make “inadequate” comments about people in the club. He did not name the company nor give any detail about the comments.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Bartomeu reiterated the club’s denial of accusations it hired a company to make negative comments about its own players and opponents on social media in order to boost the image of senior club officials.

The Cadena Ser radio network said Monday a company used fake social media accounts to discredit opposition figures and some of Barcelona’s players when they expressed views that went against the club. Cadena Ser said some of the figures included star players Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique as well as former coach Pep Guardiola.

Bartomeu said other companies will continue to monitor social media on behalf of the club.

“It’s the responsibility of the club to know what is said on social media around the world,” he said. “But the club has never contracted services to discredit anyone, and we will do whatever is needed to defend ourselves from such accusations.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Premier League Preview: Man City v. West Ham

Premier League Preview: Man City v. West Ham
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Manchester City takes the pitch at the Etihad Stadium for the first time since UEFA hammered it with a two-year Champions League ban when it hosts West Ham United on Wednesday (Watch Live at 3 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Manager Pep Guardiola has reportedly stated his commitment to the club ahead of the match, which was rescheduled from last weekend after Storm Ciara hit England.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Second-place City opens the day 25 points back of leaders Liverpool, while West Ham is one point behind 17th place.

The Irons have not won a Premier League match since New Year’s Day, David Moyes‘ first match in charge.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 


Injuries/suspensions

Man City: OUT —  Oleksandr Zinchenko, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane. QUESTIONABLE — Aymeric Laporte, Benjamin Mendy

West Ham: OUT — Jack Wilshere, Andriy Yarmolenko. QUESTIONABLE — Felipe Anderson


Probable lineups

Man City: Ederson; Cancelo, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Walker, Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne, D. Silva, Aguero, Mahrez.

West Ham: Fabianski; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Diop, Zabaleta, Rice, Soucek, Noble, Snodgrass, Haller, Antonio.


What they’re saying

West Ham’s David Moyes on the relegation fight: “I’m more than confident we will climb the table. I think the players here are more than capable. I think we have got a good group. I think they are all fully aware of the situation we’re in and the improvement we need to make to make sure we’re not in the bottom three, and I’m sure come the end we will do.”


Prediction

A blowout. While West Ham has the urgency to get out of the drop zone, City will be pouring its full focus into finding form for next week’s Champions League tie with Real Madrid. City, 4-1.

Champions League preview: Spurs host Leipzig, Valencia visits Atalanta

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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 ties kickoff Wednesday, including one being labeled as the biggest in a club’s existence.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

That would be Serie A side Atalanta, which hosts Valencia at 3 p.m. at Gewiss Stadium.

Atalanta had played in two consecutive Europa Leagues, but this is their first move into the Champions League. To make the knockout rounds is exceptional, and club president Antonio Percassi is fired up.

“We must be honest, this is the most important game in the history of this club,” Percassi told Sky Sport Italia. “It doesn’t seem real. It’s exciting just thinking that tomorrow we’ll be in a Champions League Round of 16. It’s wonderful for our fans too. … This is going to be a unique experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.”

Atalanta finished second in its group to Manchester City, and is fourth in Serie A. Valencia won its group.

There’s a Premier League side in action on Wednesday, too, as Spurs begin life without Heung-Min Son.

Jose Mourinho spun a tale about how badly Tottenham will need its fans against RB Leipzig, comparing the home-field advantage to an emergency rescue crew of sorts.

Leipzig is led by Julian Nagelsmann, who was once referred to as “Baby Mourinho” by his players.

The 32-year-old was quick to distance himself from the story.

“Tomorrow it is Leipzig against Tottenham, not Mourinho v. Baby Mourinho,” he said. “I have great respect for Mourinho. He has won lots of titles with big clubs, the Champions League twice. He has made his mark on European football at some big European clubs. I think it his 59th knockout game in the CL and it is my first so there is obviously respect there.”

Liverpool’s Robertson not a fan of Atletico Madrid theatrics

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Liverpool fullback Andy Robertson was not impressed with Atletico Madrid’s display as his side fell 1-0 in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Reds fell behind on a fourth-minute Saul Niguez goal and couldn’t get a shot on target despite 73 percent possession in Spain.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Atleti executed its plan to near-perfection, slowing restarts and taking advantage of counterattacking opportunities to assuage the constant pressure of Liverpool.

At times it was reminiscent of early-century Italian national team play, and both neutrals and Liverpool knew what they were in for once Atleti took the lead.

“We gave them the best possible start to get the fans behind them and then they can start falling over and things like that, trying to get under our skin a bit which I think we handled quite well to be honest,” Robertson told BT Sport. “We know we are better than (how they played). We put in a decent performance and we can be better than that. Luckily we have got a second leg to put it right.”

Given the performance and the reputation, you’d still fancy the Reds to “put it right” at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp thinks Atleti will feel plenty of pressure at Anfield, and he will certainly feel the officiating will be more to his liking.