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Premier League Preview: Leicester City v. Man City

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  • Leicester (50 points) sit 3rd in PL table
  • Man City (54) sit 2nd after catching Foxes
  • Last meeting: Man City 3-1 Leicester

Barring arguably the greatest collapse in sports history, Liverpool will win the 2019-20 Premier League title and do so in exceedingly comfortable fashion, but who will finish second behind what could down as the statistically greatest side in PL history? That’s up to Leicester City and Manchester City, who are set to face off with one another on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and NBCSports.com), to settle between themselves.

It’s been an unprecedentedly tumultuous week for Man City, who found out last Friday that they had been banned from European competition for two seasons. In their first on-field action since the ban was announced, Pep Guardiola’s side dispatched West Ham United with a 2-0 victory on Wednesday, but the overall mood around the Etihad Stadium was particularly sour and vitriolic. Saturday will mark City’s first away fixture since the ban came down from UEFA, and the two-time defending PL champions are likely to receive a largely disparaging welcome inside from home fans at the King Power Stadium.

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On the other side of the equation, injuries and suspensions to midfielders are the most challenging hurdle for Brendan Rodgers‘ side this weekend. Wilfred Ndidi (knee) and Daniel Amartey (ankle) were already set to miss Saturday’s game through injury before Hamza Choudhury picked up a red card in the Foxes’ scoreless draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers last Friday. Now, Rodgers is without a recognizable defensive midfielder to face a side featuring the creative nous of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva.

Injuries/suspensions

Leicester: OUT – Wilfred Ndidi (knee), Hamza Choudhury (suspension), Daniel Amartey (ankle), Matty James (fitness), Nampalys Mendy (knee)

Man City: OUT – Raheem Sterling (hamstring), Leroy Sane (knee)


Projected lineups

Leicester: Schmeichel — Pereria, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell — Tielemans, Praet, Maddison — Perez, Vardy, Barnes

Man City: Ederson — Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Mendy — Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Silva — Bernard, Aguero, Jesus


What they’re saying

James Maddison, on the battle for second: “We’ve just got to win as many games as possible. Unlike last year, this year, I think we’ve shown we can beat the teams on paper that the experts say we should beat, and we’ve also taken points against big teams as well, the so called ‘top -six.’ We’ve got a good balance of games going into the end of the season, starting on Saturday, and we’ll treat the Man City game just like we’ll treat the Norwich game next Friday. It’s about, especially at this time of the season, accumulating as many points as possible.”

Guardiola, on his team’s commitment: “This team showed overall determination the last two seasons like no other club has done. Four domestic titles last season and we’ve won seven of the last eight competitions we played. It’s almost impossible. But the desire is always there. I don’t think we are going to do something special because they have this inside of themselves to do this regardless. I am working with exceptional players; I have the feeling they follow us 100 percent.


Prediction

Given their recent form, injuries and suspensions all piling up at once, Leicester’s race appears to have been run as far as a second-place challenge is concerned. Man City showed little sign of being distracted by off-field matters when they beat West Ham, and that should remain the usual service from here on out. Leicester 1-3 Man City

Benzema: ‘I’m F1’ quality compared to ‘go-kart’ Giroud

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It would appear that Karim Benzema lives for exactly two things in life: scoring goals and creating/participating in very public drama.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Benzema, who hasn’t feature for France’s national team since he was allegedly involved in a scandal to blackmail teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape in 2015, slammed compatriot forward Olivier Giroud as the “go-karting” alternative to his own “F1” quality.

His main gripe with Giroud doesn’t appear to actually be with the player himself, but the fact the two get compared to one another so frequently. In Benzema’s absence from Les Bleus, Giroud has been the main beneficiary, leading many to wonder if the team could have reached greater heights with Benzmea in the team instead — quotes from Sky Sports:

“You shouldn’t confuse F1 and go karting and that’s me being kind. On to the next topic. I’m not talking about him [Giroud] anymore. I just know that I’m F1.

“He has his career, he does what he wants and scores the goals that he wants to score. He’s in his corner and I’m in mine, I’m not thinking about him. If we’re talking about playing style, his suits France well.

“It’s good because there are fast players like (Kylian) Mbappe and (Antoine) Griezmann who play out wide or feed off the centre-forward. When Giroud is up front, he’s a handful for defenses, which gives the other two plenty of space to show what they can do.

“He occupies defenders and it works. It might not be brilliant to watch and you won’t say, ‘Wow, that was incredible.’ Does everyone like that style of play? I don’t know, but it suits France well.”

Giroud: 39 goals (third-highest) in 97 appearances for France. Benzema: 27 goals in 81 appearances.

Guardiola: ‘We will come back stronger, kinder … and a bit fatter’

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Through all of the innumerable challenges and tragedies the world is currently facing during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is doing his best to not only help the fight back in his native Spain, but also give everyone a chance to smile and laugh at their own expense.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Guardiola, who last week donated $1.1 million to fight the virus in Catalonia, released a video message of encouragement and hope on Monday — encouraging everyone to stay inside, and hopeful of returning to a sense of normalcy in short order:

“We miss football. We miss the life that we had a few days ago but now is the time to listen, to follow our scientists, doctors and nurses.

“You are my football family and we are going to do everything possible to make you feel better. We’ll come back from this stronger, better, kinder … and a little bit fatter. Stay inside, stay safe.”

Germany’s UCL clubs pledge support for cash-strapped clubs

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DUSSELDORF, Germany — Four German soccer clubs have pledged a combined $21.9 million to support other teams struggling to stay afloat after games in the country were suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen will forgo $13.7 million in as-yet undistributed TV money and add another $8.2 million from their own funds. All four clubs played in the Champions League this season, giving them extra income.

The German Football League, which oversees the top two divisions, will decide how the money is distributed. The league has previously said it fears many clubs could face financial collapse if games can’t resume.

“In these difficult times, it’s important that the stronger shoulders support the weaker shoulders,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said on Thursday.

It’s the latest in a string of gestures to help those in need in German soccer. Players at clubs including Bayern, Borussia Monchengladbach and second-tier Karlsruhe have agreed to voluntary pay cuts to help other staff.

[ MORE: Tottenham offer stadium to help with coronavirus effort ]

Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said clubs had a responsibility to keep other teams running in what could be a long period without income from ticket sales and sponsors.

“We have always said that we would show solidarity if clubs, through no fault of their own, should run into difficulties that they can no longer overcome themselves,” Watzke said in a statement.

“BVB is currently having a major impact on society through a wide range of initiatives. And naturally we are prepared to help out other professional football clubs if it is ultimately a matter of cushioning the financial effects of the pandemic.”

Transfer rumor roundup: Sancho to Man Utd; Madrid’s Haaland backup plan

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A roundup of all of Monday’s biggest transfer rumors, including those involving Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: Tottenham offer stadium to help with coronavirus effort ]

Jadon Sancho is a virtual lock to leave Borussia Dortmund and return to the PL this summer, and the 20-year-old winger will almost certainly command a transfer fee of more than $150 million just three years after signing from Manchester City for just $10 million. Today, it’s Manchester United who are rumored as frontrunners for Sancho’s services, based upon reports that Sancho has “unofficially confirmed” he will choose to join Man United when the transfer window opens.


Updating a transfer rumor from last week, Real Madrid are still very much in on another Dortmund starlet, Erling Haaland, but that doesn’t mean they’re putting all of their eggs in one basket. Los Blancos are reportedly eyeing Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a former Dortmund man himself, as a backup option should Haaland remain at Dortmund or land elsewhere this summer. Aubameyang, who’ll turn 31 this summer, isn’t likely to move for less than $60 million, which could prove a stumbling block.


If the rumors are to be believed, this summer will be a costly one for Man United, who are also interested in Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez. The price tag on the 25-year-old? Close to $170 million. It would seem unlikely that United could afford Niguez (at that price) without getting $100 million (at least) for Paul Pogba.


Another current Arsenal (and former Dortmund) player, midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, hopes to turn his loan to Roma into a permanent move this summer. Arsenal are expected to ask $22 for the 31-year-old, but the Serie A side is hoping to pay closer to $12 million instead.