Season Preview: Another star departs; can Leicester cope?

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Leicester City at a glance

Premier League titles: 1 (2016)

FA Cups: 0 (best finish: runners-up – 1949, 1961, 1963, 1969)

League Cups: 3 (1964, 1997, 2000)

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]


It’s been two years since Leicester City won the Premier League after starting the season as 5,000-1 long shots, and the Foxes only managed to narrowly eclipse their 2015-16 season points total (81) in the last two seasons gone by, combined (91). Leicester were headed for a serious relegation battle when Claudio Ranieri was dismissed nine months after lifting the PL trophy, but managed to finish 12th (44 points) on the back of a seven wins in their final 13 games. Last season followed quite the opposite path, as Craig Shakespeare was fired in October and Claude Puel arrived with a massive boost still quite early in the season. They finished ninth, but still won just 47 points in the process.

N'Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy were pretty unquestionably — and probably in that order — the three most important players during the title-winning season. Kante left for Chelsea mere weeks after celebrating at the King Power Stadium, while Mahrez finally got his long-sought-after move to — and corresponding payday from — a European giant, Manchester City. Even while missing a handful of league games due to transfer-related issues last season, Mahrez still bagged a dozen goals to come second, behind Vardy (20), for his now-former club.

The top-end talent is nowhere near the level it has been in the recent past, but there’s a solid case to be made that the middle of the squad is massively improved and that that could result in a steadier ride in 2018-19, with higher lows and lower highs.


Leicester will further solidify a top-half place because… manager Claude Puel builds and drills extremely competent and organized — but limited, albeit — teams. They’ll have one of the most robust, hardest-working midfield units in the entire league. They will be no fun to play against, and they’ll be even more difficult to score again. They have a great chance to finish with the best defensive record of clubs outside the top-six.

Leicester will end up in the relegation scrap because… scoring goals will be a challenge, unless Kelechi Iheanacho has a breakout season. While contributions will come from more places this season, there isn’t really any way to replace a player of Mahrez’s caliber if you’re a club of Leicester’s stature. Mid-table PL sides don’t sell a player for $80 million, then turn around and replace him with a $50- or 60-million player, the way an Arsenal or Chelsea can do. Also, Vardy is will turn 32 years old in January, and at some point he’s no longer going to be lightning quick, at which point he becomes far less effective — and feared.

Best possible XI:

Schmeichel

Pereira — Maguire — Evans — Chilwell

Ghezzal — Iborra — Ndidi — Gray

Maddison

Vardy

Transfers In: James Maddison ($32 million, Norwich City), Ricardo Pereira ($29 million, Porto), Danny Ward ($16 million, Liverpool), Jonny Evans ($5 million, West Brom), Rachid Ghezzal (undisclosed, Monaco)

Transfers Out: Riyad Mahrez ($80 million, Man City), Robert Huth (free), Ahmed Musa (undisclosed, Al-Nassr)

Ranking their offseason: B-

As discussed already, it’s impossible to replace Mahrez directly or with one player, so it was wise to not even try. Maddison has quickly progressed through the Football League and is full of potential, but he’s 21 years old and has played zero PL minutes in his career. Pereira, 24, is good enough to lock down the right back spot for nearly a decade, if he’s not poached by a bigger club in two years’ time; Evans arrives with the perfect blend of experience and a cheap price tag to replace Huth. Ghezzal is the wild card of the bunch.

Star player: In a perfect world, Iheanacho will have asserted himself as the Foxes’ undisputed star by the time May — November, preferably — rolls around. He’ll have to overcome a lot to do so, though, as Puel used him sparingly last season and pretty clearly doesn’t see him as a fit alongside Vardy, meaning he’ll likely have to unseat the man 10 years his senior in order to deliver on the potential he showed during brief flashes during his time at Man City.

Coach’s Corner: Again, Leicester won’t play the most beautiful, free-flowing soccer you’ve ever seen — far from it, actually — and it’ll be downright frustrating at times, and it’ll be by Puel’s design.

PST Predicts: Alongside Everton, Leicester should occupy no man’s land dead center between the top-six and the other dozen teams in the PL, all of whom are similarly competent and ambitious, but lacking the kind of depth possessed by the Toffees and Foxes. Leicester appear set to be a PL club for quite a long time into the future.

Australia vs Denmark, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream, videos

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This will be an epic battle in Group D as Australia and Denmark can both reach the last 16 of the World Cup heading into their final group game.

STREAM LIVE AUSTRALIA v DENMARK

After their superb win against Tunisia last time out, Australia know a win against Denmark puts them in the last 16 of the World Cup for just the second time in their history. Graham Arnold has had plenty of criticism for the way his team play but they were totally committed against Tunisia and always carried a threat on the counter. They will have to put in a very similar display against the talented Danes but a point could well be enough as Tunisia would have to beat France in the other game in Group D to complicate matters further for Australia and Denmark.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

As for Denmark, they have had a very poor tournament so far. They were woeful in attack against Tunisia in an opening game stalemate, while they were beaten by France last time out and Kasper Hjulmand has failed to get his team going in attack. Christian Eriksen and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg are trying to drive Denmark on from midfield but they just haven’t look dangerous going forward. They have to win against Australia and then hope Tunisia doesn’t beat France and it goes down to goal difference. 

[ MORE: Group D standings, schedule, scores ]

Here is everything you need for Australia vs Denmark.


How to watch Australia vs Denmark live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Wednesday, November 30
Stadium: Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Australia will set up exactly the same as they did against Tunisia as they will whip in balls to Mitchell Duke who was the hero with his superb flicked header. Both Duke and Arnold pointed to the ‘Aussie Spirit’ getting them the win against Tunisia and there is a real grit and determination about this team.

Denmark know they have to win, so they will go for a more attack-minded lineup and they have the quality to beat Australia. They start Braithwaite in attack as they try to get something going offensively and this is basically a knockout game in the group stage.


Australia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 38
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified from AFC via the intercontinental playoffs
Coach: Graham Arnold
Key players: Mathew Ryan, Aaron Mooy, Mathew Leckie

Denmark quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 10
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group F)
Coach: Kasper Hjulmand
Key players: Kasper Schmeichel, Simon Kjaer, Christian Eriksen


Tunisia vs France, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream, videos

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Tunisia need a win and help as they clash with reigning World Cup champions France in their Group D finale.

STREAM LIVE TUNISIA v FRANCE

With France already through to the last 16 of the World Cup courtesy of their two wins so far against Australia and Denmark, Didier Deschamps may rest a few key players for this game. That will give Tunisia hope and after their 0-0 draw against Denmark and their narrow 1-0 defeat to Australia, they’ve been in both games but just can’t find that finishing touch in the final third.

[ MORE: Group D standings, schedule, scores ]

France have an abundance of talent, and that’s just on their bench. Despite losing Nkunku, Benzema, Pogba and Kante to injury before the tournament kicked off, it hasn’t really impacted them as they’ve made light work of their opening two group games. Kylian Mbappe was the difference against Denmark and he already has three goals at this tournament to be the joint top scorer.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Tunisia vs France.


How to watch Tunisia vs France live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Wednesday, November 30
Stadium: Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Tunisia need to take more risks in attack and this is all or nothing for them now. They need to win and hope that Australia against Denmark ends in a draw as they have the upperhand over Australia when it comes to goal difference. If they win and Denmark win it will also go down to goal difference to see if they reach the last 16. Khazri starts this game to give them extra quality in attack.

France now have the luxury of resting some of their key players ahead of the last 16 but Deschamps will be keen to make it three wins from three in the group stage to keep momentum going. Camavinga, Mandanda, Guendouzi and Camavinga all start. France just need a point to guarantee top spot in the group but in reality their huge advantage in goal difference over Australia (6 goals better off) means they’ve already won the group.


Tunisia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 30
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified via CAF playoffs (Beat Mali)
Coach: Jalel Kadri
Key players: Ferjani Sassi, Wahbi Khazri, Youssef Msakni

France quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, Karim Benzema


USMNT tops Iran to set up World Cup date with Netherlands

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Christian Pulisic was injured scoring the lone goal of a 1-0 win over Iran as the United States men’s national team advanced to the World Cup’s Round of 16 on Tuesday.

The Yanks, runners-up in Group B, will play Group A winners Netherlands at 10am ET Saturday.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings vs Iran ]

Pulisic walked off the field on his power and appeared to have taken a hard shot to the midsection. We’ll update his condition as soon as it becomes available.

WATCH IRAN vs USA FULL MATCH REPLAY

England won the group while Iran bows out along with Wales.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]


What we learned from Iran vs USA

It’s difficult not to feel good for Christian Pulisic, no longer the young sparkplug hopeful of reaching his potential.

The next great American player actually became the next great American player, and our enduring World Cup-related memory of him was in qualification; The teenage goal scorer who didn’t find a teammate to also score in Couva as the Yanks crashed out of the tournament.

Now the enduring World Cup image of him, rightly so, is as a gamer. Pulisic scored a round-sealing goal while getting kicked in the nether region.

Then his teammates needed to hold on tight.

They mostly did! The USMNT stayed firm after Gregg Berhalter stopped going for the second goal, removing several attackers in favor of Walker Zimmerman and Shaq Moore.

It was nervy, but they did it. And the U.S. moves forward…


Stars of the Show

Christian Pulisic

Antonee Robinson

Tyler Adams

Majid Hosseini

Tim Ream

USMNT player ratings
fotmob.com

Christian Pulisic goal video: Dest cues up USMNT star

How to watch Iran vs USA live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Tuesday Nov. 29
Stadium: Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

For Iran, it’s about riding the momentum of a huge win after finding inspiration in a huge loss. There’s an ocean’s worth of difference in emotion between the 6-2 tournament-opening loss to England in Al Rayyan and the 2-0 triumph over Wales In the same city. Can Mehdi Taremi or Sardar Azmoun succeed where Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling could not and break down the USMNT defense for a goal?

Meanwhile, the Yanks may still be lamenting a 1-1 draw with Wales as much as they are celebrating a strong performance that kept them unbeaten against England at the World Cup after a scoreless draw with Gareth Southgate’s men In Al Khor. Gregg Berhalter has to find a way to unlock the USMNT’s final-third woes when they hit Al Khor on Tuesday.

There has also been some off-field tension brewing between the U.S. and Iran surrounding this game, as Gregg Berhalter and captain Tyler Adams responded to in a tense press conference amid questions from the Iranian press.


Iran quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 20
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC (Won Group A)
Coach: Dragan Skocic
Key players: Ehsan Hajsafi, Sardar Azmoun, Mehdi Taremi

USA quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 16
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 9
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONCACAF (3rd place)
Coach: Gregg Berhalter
Key players: Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams

What are the group stage tiebreaker rules at the 2022 World Cup?

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The 2022 World Cup is already well underway and through the first matches of the group stage, the tournament has been marked by unpredictability and upsets, including Saudi Arabia toppling Argentina and Japan edging out Germany thanks to a late comeback. While one loss doesn’t necessarily mean these pre-tournament contenders won’t make it to the knockout rounds, it does make the path significantly harder. Read on to see the World Cup tiebreakers that may come into play in determining which teams advance to the next round and continue on the path to soccer’s greatest glory.

How many teams will advance from the World Cup group stage?

Of the 32 teams at the 2022 World Cup, only 16 will advance to the next round of the tournament. The top two teams in each of the eight groups will advance to the Round of 16. From there, the tournament will be a single-elimination competition, with eight teams making it through to the quarterfinals and four to the semifinals. The winners of the semifinal matches will play in the final, while the losers will meet in the third-place playoff.

RELATED: World Cup 2022 schedule – how to watch, groups, calendar, match schedule, brackets, dates

What are the tiebreakers for the group stage at the World Cup?

If two or more teams have an equal number of points after the conclusion of group stage matches, FIFA will use the following tiebreakers to determine which nations advance:

  • Goal differential – the team with the higher goal differential (total goals scored minus total goals allowed) will have the higher ranking
  • Number of goals scored – If multiple teams have the same number of points and equal goal differential, the team with more goals scored will be given a higher ranking than the lesser-scoring team

World Cup draw rules

If two or more teams are still “tied” after applying these tiebreakers, FIFA moves on to a second round of tiebreakers:

  • Greatest number of points obtained in group matches between the teams concerned
  • Superior goal difference resulting from the group matches between the team concerned
  • Greatest number of goals scored in all matches between the teams concerned
  • Highest team conduct score – team conduct score is based on the number of yellow and red cards a team has obtained. The team with the highest team conduct score will receive the higher ranking.
    • Yellow Card: Minus one point
    • Indirect Red Card (acquired via two yellow cards): Minus three points
    • Direct Red Card: Minus four points
    • Yellow Card and Direct Red Card: Minus five points

RELATED: PST’s 2022 World Cup predictions: Standings, winner, awards, USMNT fate

World Cup yellow card rules

The “team conduct” tiebreaker or “fair play” tiebreaker was first used at the 2018 World Cup – Japan and Senegal stood equal after all other tiebreakers were applied but Senegal had more yellow cards and was subsequently eliminated. Japan advanced to the Round of 16.

World Cup 2022 schedule, start time, dates, how to watch live

  • When: November 20, 2022 to December 18, 2022
  • Group stage game kick-off times: 5am, 8am, 10am, 11am, 2pm (all ET)
  • Location: Qatar
  • TV channels en Español: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock
  • Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D | Group E | Group F | Group G | Group H

Follow along with ProSoccerTalk for the latest news, scores, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 World Cup, and be sure to subscribe to NBC Sports on YouTube!