Brendan Rodgers

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Leicester City’s Rodgers: ‘Good news’ on Vardy injury

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Brendan Rodgers says there’s good news when it comes to the injury suffered by Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s 4-1 blowout of West Ham United on Wednesday.

Vardy hurt his glute in the win, temporarily returning to the match after treatment from the trainer but ultimately subbing off before halftime.

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“It wasn’t his hamstring, so that’s good news for us,” Rodgers said, via The Leicester Mercury.

“He just felt a twinge in his glute, so we just have to wait and see on that in the next day or so. Thankfully his hamstring is okay and he just felt some pain in his glute, so we will have to assess that over the next few days.”

Vardy has a Premier League-best 17 goals, one more than Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted one of Ayoze Perez’s two goals on the day. Perez’s seven goals are second on Leicester, while James Maddison‘s six are third.

Iheanacho has six goals and three assists in 485 minutes and there’s reason to believe he can feast off Leicester’s playmaking if Vardy needs a match or two to heal.

Whether he can fill Vardy’s shoes in the long-term is a big question, especially as Leicester aims to return for the Champions League.

Watch Live: Burnley v. Leicester City

Watch Live: Burnley v. Leicester City (Lineups and stream link)
Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City via Getty Images
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Leicester City looks to build a nine-point cushion on fourth-place Chelsea with a win over Burnley at Turf . Moor on Sunday (Watch live at 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Brendan Rodgers‘ Foxes can go level on points with second-place Manchester City by beating the hosts.

[ STREAM: Burnley v. Leicester City ]

Fifteenth-place Burnley opens the day two points clear of the Bottom Three, losers of four-straight matches.

Jay Rodriguez and Chris Wood start up top for the Clarets against the second-stingiest back line in the Premier League.

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PL Sunday Preview: Leicester travel to Burnley; Liverpool put perfect record on the line against Man Utd

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With eight Premier League fixtures on Saturday, two more remain in Matchweek 23.

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Burnley v. Leicester City  — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Burnley are free falling and there doesn’t seem to be a safety net in sight.

The Clarets, who are two points removed from the relegation zone, head into a tough three-match window without striker Ashley Barnes. Recuperating from a hernia surgery, the 30-year-old is set to miss bouts against Leicester, Manchester United and Arsenal – to name some.

But quite possibly more alarming than that is the team’s recent form. Losing seven out of their last nine, just two points divide Burnley from the drop zone. Sean Dyche‘s team are clueless in the box, scoring one goal in four league bouts. Trouble looms over Turf Moor.

But even then, Dyche, who has made Burnley a force to be reckoned with in the past, believes his side are still a threat.

“They are a good side,” Dyche said about Leicester. “We are on a tough run of form, but I don’t think they are naive enough to think it is turn up and get the business done. We are not a million miles away.”

Can Burnley pull a Southampton and stun a top-four bound Leicester?

“We weren’t at our best [against Southampton] and we didn’t have the energy and intensity that we would have liked,” Brendan Rodgers said ahead of Sunday’s early match.

“We work twice as hard and that’s what we’ve done after every setback. We still have a lot to improve on.”

The Foxes had a rare full week to train, so one can bet that Rodgers is serious about his word.

INJURIES: Burnley —  OUT: Barnes (hernia), Gudmundsson (hamstring) | Leicester City — OUT: Ndidi (knee), Amartey (ankle), James (match fitness)

Liverpool v. Manchester United — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Manchester United are a part of the exclusive anti-Liverpool club for more than the obvious reason.

Yes, the North West Derby is one of the league’s most heated rivalries, with countless flashbacks in its 203 meetings during its over 100 years of history.

But these two, star-studded squads led by Jurgen Klopp and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, respectively, also have a permeating rivalry of their own. The Reds, who have yet to taste defeat this season, have dropped points to only United.

It can be argued that Sunday’s bout may be Liverpool’s most complicated and least favorable, despite maintaining an immaculate record at home. This is the “big one” that many didn’t particularly circle on the calendar.

“It’s a very, very important football game,” Klopp said. “Very important. We have to learn how to deal with games like this in the right manner. We haven’t done bad in the past but we can still improve.

“Old Trafford [a 1-1 draw in October] was a good example, [we were] not at our best because of their quality. We have to make it more likely we’re at our best.”

Solskjaer had his tactics in place last time around; a small injection of final quality and the team would have crushed Liverpool’s aspirations of matching the Iinvincibles or Manchester City’s points record.

“The last two performances [against Liverpool] at Old Trafford we have drawn twice and been close to winning both games, so we’ve got some games to look back at and that will give us loads of belief… if we perform to our best we have a chance to win,” Solskjaer said.

Sunday presents itself as the final chance for United to pull the upset, and reaffirm why they’re a part of the exclusive club to begin with. But Liverpool are slowing becoming invincible themselves.

INJURIES: Liverpool —  OUT: Lovren (hamstring), Clyne (knee), Keïta (groin), Milner (hamstring) | Manchester United  — OUT: Tuanzebe (hamstring), McTominay (knee), Pogba (ankle)

Local hero Danny Ings leading Saints with goals, smiles

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SOUTHAMPTON — Danny Ings is on fire and has led his hometown club up the Premier League table and away from relegation trouble in recent months.

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Southampton have won six of their last nine Premier League games and in that period only Liverpool have won more points than them, as Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side have totally transformed their season. Ings scoring over 50 percent of their goals has, obviously, played a huge part in that as he’s scored winners against Tottenham and Leicester in shock back-to-back victories.

The red-hot Saints host Wolverhampton Wanderers this Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com) hoping to make it six wins in seven in all competitions as their amazing run of form has coincided with Ings being in the form of his life. With that in mind we went along to Southampton’s training ground in England’s New Forest National Park to speak to the man who sits second in the Premier League’s goalscoring charts.

Full disclosure, this is not the first time I’ve met or spoken to Danny Ings. Back in 2015 I was working on a longform story detailing his rise to Liverpool, via Burnley and Bournemouth, as he’d just made his England debut after breaking into Liverpool’s first team as a regular. I visited his dad Shayne and his partner Sue, and spoke to his family and others close to him as he was set to be the next big thing in English soccer at the age of 23.

Ings then ruptured his ACL in Jurgen Klopp‘s first training session as Liverpool boss. And then did it again two years later. He moved to his hometown club Southampton on an initial loan in 2018 and the $26 million deal became permanent last summer. It is the best deal Southampton have made in some time.

With 16 goals to his name in all competitions this season, and 10 in his last 11 appearances in the Premier League, he’s in the form of his life in front of his family and friends. He is dubbed “King of the Scummers” by Saints fans who revel in his two goals in a 4-0 win away at League One Portsmouth, their bitter rivals, in the League Cup earlier this season and he admitted that game, and becoming even more of a local hero, kickstarted his season.

As he smiles widely while rubbing his heavily tattooed hand across his chin, Ings is thriving on the pressure placed on him at St Mary’s, Saints’ home stadium which is only a couple of miles away from where he grew up. The pressure to deliver match tickets each week for friends is one thing, but scoring goals as the No. 9 is on another level altogether.

“I think when I knew when I was coming here, I was inviting a lot of pressure on myself,” Ings said. “To wear the number nine shirt in front of your hometown, there is a lot or pressure in that alone. But for me, because I was playing at Liverpool before that among lots of world class players who I’ve looked up to and tried to learn from, those were the guys who had more questions than I did after back-to-back knee operations. The craving of having that pressure on myself is something that I wanted for so long and coming here excites me to have that pressure because I know if I come off the pitch and I have scored a goal, it means a lot more to me.”

Not content with just scoring goals for his hometown, Ings is also one of very few players who is working hard in the classroom too. He is currently completing an economics degree and is learning to play the guitar when he switches off from being the man of the moment. Add into that his tireless work in the community with the “Danny Ings Disability Sports Project” charity he set up to help children with disabilities, and he’s doing all he can off the pitch.

On the pitch, Hasenhuttl, his boss at Saints, has labelled Ings ‘outrageous’ among other superlatives and recently said that the form of Ings is “due to him working his ass off” every day. Even on his off days. Ings spent his time off in the summer doing one thing: working his ass off.

He was in Portugal and Los Angeles and Miami training with nutritionists and performance coaches, Alex Parsons and  Nicky Holender, who worked on building up his core strength ahead of what was a hugely important season.

After three serious knee injuries spread across his time at Burnley and Liverpool, is he making up for lost time?

“For me, I’m just having fun now, my mindset in my career right now is that if I put the work in Monday to Friday, and I know I’ve done everything I’ve done to prepare for the game ahead, I know I can go out and have fun at the weekend,” Ings smiled. “I feel like people are really seeing that in my performances now, I am playing the game, I am smiling, I am happy. When I’m getting the chance I am trying to be as clinical as I can be. I’m not going to score every week, that’s normal. But if I give myself the best chance of getting into those positions, I know that I can score more goals and there are plenty more games still to come in the season.”

His return to form and fitness has led to calls for him to be called up by Gareth Southgate for the English national team in March. Ings is playing it cool when asked about a call up, but his former managers, current teammates and pundits are rallying behind the widely-loved striker who has been through tough times but has shown incredible mental strength to come out of it a better player.

With Jamie Vardy‘s retirement and Harry Kane‘s injury, a spot has opened up. Tammy Abraham, Callum Wilson and Marcus Rashford have been the other strikers in recent squads, but does Ings offer something slightly different?

“I would say we are all kind of different players in the way we play for our clubs and the way we have been over the course of our careers, really. Gareth will want a certain striker playing a certain way for him and it is all about what he wants,” Ings said. “The way I am in the system here at the club, it is all about pressing, running behind, not having too many touches on the ball. If that is something that is different to the other lads and how Gareth wants to set his team up, then yeah, I’d say it is definitely a different way for me.”

Playing for Eddie Howe at Bournemouth, Sean Dyche at Burnley, Brendan Rodgers and Klopp at Liverpool and now Hasenhuttl at Saints, the managers Ings have played for are very different and he thanks them all for developing his understanding of the game and all asking him to do different things. But the thing he has always done well is score goals. By the boatload.

Can he explain this glut of goals which has already culminated in his best-ever goalscoring season with 16 games of the season still to go? He has scored plenty of goals this season by sniffing around defenders, pouncing on mistakes and leading Saints’ now famed press under Hasenhuttl.

“It is hard to put my finger on that. Every game I want to try and create as many chances as I can and be in the right positions when the lads are providing. I go back to the momentum, momentum is key,” Ings said. “Any striker will tell you that when you are on a goal run you find yourself ending up in better positions to score goals, your focus is a lot stronger because you have the bug for scoring goals and trying to do the best you can for the team. That is the mindset I’ve been in this season. I am finding myself in great positions because the momentum is there and it is a hunger that we all have as goalscorers.”

Ings is in lethal form at the moment and you will not find one person across the Premier League who is unhappy about it. From his high-pressing to his finishing, plenty of the PL’s big boys will keep sniffing around Ings but he is keen to point out he is very happy at Southampton and isn’t thinking about anything else.

What is achievable for the rest of the season with Saints, a team who had just two wins on the board heading into late November but are now just three points off possible European qualification?

“For every club you want to achieve the maximum you can. We’ve put ourselves in a position now where we have gone further away from where we were and we are edging closer to the teams in and around those [European] places. For us, I feel like it is important we maintain our momentum,” Ings said. “Every game is so tough in the Premier League, you never know what’s going to happen. If we start thinking too far ahead, we might lose a little bit of the focus in the game that is coming at the weekend. You can see how hard the lads are working now to be the best team we can be. You can see how it is clicking and that is the way moving forward. If you look too far ahead you might lose a bit of focus and it is important we don’t do that.”

With Southampton’s fans signing his name loud and proud and hailing him as “one of our own” Ings is a happy man. Back at home, everybody wants to speak with him, everyone wants photos and everyone in the biggest city on England’s South Coast wants tickets to watch him play.

His goals and smiles have been one of the stories of the Premier League season so far as he pushes for the Golden Boot in the final months of the campaign. After his injuries and heartache in recent years, seeing Danny Ings back smiling, and scoring, is a beautiful sight for anybody who loves the beautiful game.

The fact he can now celebrate with his family by jumping on a boat and going fishing in Southampton Water hours after being the hero on the banks of the River Itchen is an added bonus. And one he clearly loves.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 22

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The Premier League table’s Top Two is back to what we’ve seen for most of the season. Our Club Power Rankings are following suit, and honestly we’d be stunned if they change the rest of the way.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Look: Liverpool and Manchester City may be the two best clubs in the world, even with and perhaps because of the latter’s injury crisis.

The numbers are backing that up.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]

20. Norwich City — Can versatile Lukas Rupp help steady the midfield?
Last week: 20
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 4-0 at Man Utd
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

19. Aston Villa — Welcome back Pepe Reina. Enjoy your first proper relegation scrap.
Last week: 17
Season high: 6
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 6-1 v. Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Brighton

18. Bournemouth — If the manager was anyone other than a club legend, he may’ve been fired. That’s a credit to the Cherries, as they wouldn’t be luring anyone better than Eddie Howe, anyway.
Last week: 19
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Watford
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Norwich City

17. Burnley — Sean Dyche has done enough if similar situations to make us leery of doubting him, but talent-wise this is one of his biggest challenges yet.
Last week: 18
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 3-0 at Chelsea
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Leicester City

16. West Ham United — David Moyes isn’t going to win them all. Beating his longtime club would be a boon.
Last week: 15
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Sheffield United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Everton

15. Newcastle United — There’s something about the spirit in this injury-riddled side, who is somehow getting by without Allan Saint-Maximin and Jamaal Lascelles.
Last week: 16
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Wolves
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Chelsea

14. Crystal Palace — Speaking of injury crises, the Eagles somehow keep collecting points despite a status nearer to bare bones than adequate.
Last week: 12
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Arsenal
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Man City

13. Watford — Fortune 500 companies ought to call Nigel Pearson and give him some sort of ‘Terry Tate, Office Linebacker’ role.
Last week: 14
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 3-0 at Bournemouth
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Spurs

12. Brighton and Hove Albion — No shame in a 1-0 loss to Everton, but there’s no reward in performing well but dipping into a relegation fight. Three points from Villa on Saturday will bring some comfort.
Last week: 10
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Aston Villa

11. Arsenal — Looking steadier at the back and due for a big offensive day.
Last week: 11
Season high: 4
Season low: 13
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Sheffield United

10. Everton — We may be learning that Marco Silva might’ve alerted the world to Richarlison, but Carlo Ancelotti is capable of optimizing him.
Last week: 14
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Won 1-0 v. Brighton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at West Ham United

9. Southampton — Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s red and white army isn’t welcome on anyone’s fixture list. A win over Wolves puts them in frame for Europa League qualification. Wild swings.
Last week: 13
Season high: 8
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-1 at Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Wolves

8. Wolves — Suddenly winless in four matches with a total of two goals. Honestly, it’s quite surprising. Are they running out of gas?
Last week: 7
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Newcastle
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Saints

7. Tottenham Hotspur — With Boro in the FA Cup, Watford away, and Norwich City at home, Jose Mourinho has a chance to build confidence before a brutal run of February fixtures including Man City, Villa, RB Leipzig, and Chelsea.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 1-0 v. Liverpool
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Watford

6. Sheffield United — Barring a PL-record season from Liverpool, wouldn’t it be reasonable for a UEL-qualifying Wilder to be named PFA Manager of the Year?
Last week: 8
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 1-0 v. West Ham
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Arsenal

5. Leicester City — The Foxes aren’t in danger of a long fall, but Brendan Rodgers could really use a win — gritty or otherwise — at Turf Moor.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Saints
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Burnley

4. Chelsea — Quietly unbeaten in four after their terribly uneven December.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 3-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Newcastle

3. Manchester United — Here’s a question for United fans given the success of its star loanee at Blades: What’s his price tag? David De Gea is still in his 20s, and Sheffield United’s goalkeeper is playing out of his mind on loan.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 4-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 11:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Liverpool

2. Man City — They’re wonderful. There’s a bit of turnabout is fair play to what could legit wind up as an 85-90 point season falling 10 points shy of a title, given what City did to Liverpool last season. On pace to break their own record for goals in a Premier League season.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Won 6-1 at Aston Villa
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Crystal Palace

1. Liverpool — The grittiest grits to ever grit, and a lesson in buying into a system. A lot of teams could press the way the Reds do, but getting the players to commit to  it at this religious a rate is insane.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 1-0 at Spurs
Up next: 11:30 p.m. ET Sunday v. Man Utd