Hamza Choudhury

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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

Wolves settle for draw with Leicester after VAR misfortune

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For the second time this season, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City played one another to a scoreless stalemate on Friday, this time at Molineux Stadium with Wolves failing to climb all the way up to sixth in the Premier League table and the Foxes unable to claw past Manchester City for second place once again.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Two sides that have played some of the most entertaining, fluid attacking soccer — while remaining plenty responsible at the back — effectively canceled one another out as they combined for just six shots on target (three apiece) over the course of 90 minutes.

Wolves were the only side to put the ball in the back of the net at any point, when Willy Boly headed home past Kasper Schmeichel in the 44th minute. However, upon video review, Pedro Neto was adjudged to have been in an offside position after restarting play from a short corner kick. The situation is described most succinctly, here, by Wolves, and below in picture form.

The game swung drastically in Wolves’ favor in the 76th minute, when Hamza Choudhury was shown a second yellow card for bringing down Leander Dendoncker, though Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side was unable to make the most of their man advantage.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Adama Traore looked the likeliest source of a Wolves breakthrough upon coming off the bench in the 64th minute, but the Spanish winger couldn’t connect the final ball into the penalty area on a number of occasions he got free down the right wing.

As things stand, Leicester remain third in the PL table, just one point back of Man City. Meanwhile, Wolves climb two places, from ninth to seventh, now ahead of Manchester United and Everton.

Chelsea, Leicester: ‘Happy to have a break’

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LEICESTER — To make sure you have every angle covered for the marquee Premier League games, our new feature “In the Mixed Zone” will take you behind-the-scenes and into the tunnel areas to hear from the star players moments after their magic has decided games or drama has ensued.

[ MORE: In the Mixed Zone ]

The idea is to set the scene of being inside the tunnel area in Old Trafford, by the dugouts at Stamford Bridge and in the swanky new players area in Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium as Premier League stars walk out of the dressing room and break down the game with media members around the world.

We will tell you what they are saying and the kind of antics going on amid the hubbub of the mixed zone as players from both teams have their say on the 90-plus minutes of action we’ve just witnessed.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

Here was the scene from in the tunnel area of the King Power Stadium after Leicester and Chelsea drew in an entertaining game in a big top four battle. The main theme from both players: “We cannot wait for the international break!” as they need a break after struggling in recent weeks.


WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham stopped with the media for a chat and they were fairly happy with how Chelsea played but Abraham admitted they needed a break as he’s off to Dubai on holiday for a few days to recover. Pedro, Marcos Alonso and Kepa were the first three players out and many of the Chelsea players were wearing casual clothes as they were set to jet off on holiday or to see their families. Cesar Azpilicueta (probably the nicest bloke in football) wishes everyone a good winter break as he skips away in his jeans and sneakers. “Enjoy your holiday!”

Mount adds that “a point each was deserved” and that Chelsea’s confidence is “high” and Abraham says he “can’t wait” for the winter break: “We are all buzzing.”

Harvey Barnes and Ricardo Perreira also stopped for a chat, with Youri Tielemans stopping for Belgian TV. Barnes was sporting a cut lip and he handed his pizza to a security guard as he discusses his goal, a potential England call-up and his recent good form. He revealed he has been working hard on finishing and he has been paying close attention to Jamie Vardy in training. Barnes has scored four in his last six games.

 


ALL ABOARD THE BANTER BUS

Hamza Choudhury walked past Mason Mount while he spoke to us and made the England midfielder laugh with a little whisper in his ear. Lot of young English players on both of these teams and clearly a lot of respect, too.


INJURY NEWS

Abraham is off to rest and recover in Dubai but said he isn’t planning to take a physio with him, while Leicester’s Jonny Evans limped through the mixed zone saying he had sore shins and James Maddison was hobbling in and out sporting a bright silver backpack and a rascal jean jacket.


MIXEDZONEOLOGY

Michy Batshuayi was on FaceTime as he walked through, which is a good way to get through without being stopped. Premier League players take note if you don’t want to speak to the media. Michy is an innovator.

Callum Hudson-Odoi was trying to find his parents, and was very concerned to find them, as he was showed into the Leicester family room by accident. The English winger eventually found them outside.

There was a nice moment as Frank Lampard went back into the stadium and gatecrashed Brendan Rodgers‘ press conference to say goodbye as the Chelsea bus was leaving for London. Rodgers was a coach of Chelsea’s academy during Lampard’s playing days with the Blues, so they go way back.

Rodgers was then wandering around the tunnel area saying hello to old friends and staff at Leicester, as the mixed zone closed.

Leicester, Chelsea draw in thriller

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LEICESTER — What a game. Leicester and Chelsea played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at the King Power Stadium on Saturday as the two top four teams when toe-to-toe in the Premier League.

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After Chelsea had the better of the first half, all four goals came in the second half as Frank Lampard‘s side took the lead through Antonio Rudiger but then Brendan Rodgers saw his side come roaring back as Harvey Barnes and Ben Chilwell scored in quick succession to make it 2-1. Rudiger scored his second header of the game to level it up again and Leicester missed plenty of chances to win it late on.

With the draw Leicester stay in third on 49 points, while Chelsea are in fourth on 41 points and the teams below them could close the gap to just four points.


3 things we learned

1. Both teams low on confidence: Heading into this clash both teams were lacking in confidence and it showed. The amount of missed chances, giveaways at key times and lack of quality on the ball was almost identical from Leicester and Chelsea. After great starts to the season they have hit slumped and both are limping towards the finish line. Momentum is a hard thing to regain and it seems that both of these young squads have run out of steam.

2. Chelsea’s striker shortage a concern: Was Lampard making a point when he subbed out Tammy Abraham late on and brought on a midfielder for him? Batshuayi was on the bench but after not bringing in a new striker, or anyone, in the January transfer window, perhaps Chelsea’s manager was sending a message to those above him. ‘You need to spend money on this squad if we are going to be a top four team’ is what Lampard is saying. Abraham missed a few chances and looked leggy after his recent spell out with injuries.

3. Top four battle set to get tighter: This draw is better for Leicester than it is Chelsea and it tightens up the top four battle. Tottenham and Man United or Wolves could close the gap to four points with wins this weekend and with the title all but wrapped up, all eyes will be on the race to finish third and fourth. Leicester and Chelsea aren’t in their best form and both know there is a chasing pack getting closer as Wolves, United and Spurs all improved their squads in the transfer window.

Man of the Match: Harvey Barnes – He just gets the edge over Rudiger because he was a constant menace. He deserved his goal and should have won it late on. Barnes is a proper old school winger and kept getting behind Chelsea’s defense.


Chelsea started well as Jonny Evans headed clear and the Blues launched several counters from out wide.

Cesar Azpilicueta pulled the ball back but Abraham slipped at the vital moment as a big chance came and went. Moments later Reece James whipped in a superb ball but Abraham couldn’t quite get on the end of it, then Abraham went down in the box under a challenge from Soyuncu but no penalty kick was given after a VAR check.

Leicester then woke up as Willy Caballero brilliantly denied Vardy and then Youri Tielemans just failed to find Vardy on another counter as both teams gave the ball away cheaply.

Kasper Schmeichel then tipped a lofted effort from Pedro over the bar as Chelsea pushed hard for the opener but Leicester had their chances as Ben Chilwell fired just over from a tight angle. Mason Mount had a shot blocked just before half time as Chelsea again failed to make the most of key chances, while Ayoze Perez clipped a ball to the back post but it was cleared from a corner and Hamza Choudhury headed inches wide from that set piece.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Less than a minute into the second half Chelsea took the lead as Mount’s corner was headed home at the back post by Rudiger who wheeled away in delight.

Moments later Caballero scrambled to save down low as Leicester got behind the Chelsea defense. The Foxes did equalize moments later as Barnes got in again down the left and his deflected shot looped into the far corner.

Then Leicester went ahead as Caballero was caught out of position, scrambled back towards his goal but a cross to the back post found Chilwell who swiped home with this right foot to send the home fans wild.

Chelsea hit back almost immediately from another set piece situation as Rudiger sent a beautiful header from deep into the top corner but it was then Leicester who looked the more likely to win it.

First Jonny Evans headed wide when unmarked six yards out, then Vardy found Barnes but he scuffed his shot inches wide. Late on Rudiger looked to have handled after Barnes crossed into the box but no penalty was given as a wild second half ended level.

Leicester’s Rodgers: Slow start ‘my fault,’ credits Choudhury for revival

Leicester City manager Rodgers reacts to draw
Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images
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Leicester City’s Wembley status is far from settled after the Foxes struggled to break down Aston Villa on Wednesday.

The Foxes drew Villa 1-1 at the King Power Stadium and will have to win at Villa Park on Jan. 28 to earn a place in the March 1 final.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers said the performance was rough, but that the tie is “set up perfectly” for the Foxes.

“It was all a bit slow,” said Rodgers, via the BBC. “We didn’t press the game enough. The goal we conceded we have to be stronger. But we stayed calm and speeded up the game, made more runs off the ball. Second half we were very good, they made some great blocks to stop us winning the game. Credit to them, they made it very difficult.”

The Foxes had their excuses for a rough night. Portions of the match were played in a downpour, and one of the club’s ever-present forces missed out.

Wilfred Ndidi missed the match for Leicester City and will be absent for the next month. Rodgers said he made the wrong move in adjusting to life without Ndidi. He rectified that at halftime, pulling Dennis Praet for an enforcer.

Hamza Choudhury made a huge difference, it’s my fault that I didn’t start him tonight,” Rodgers said, via the BBC. “We could see that we needed him and he gave us our identity back. Wilfred Ndidi is so good for us, he’s colossal, and we were too slow and not aggressive without him or Hamza.”

Choudhury should prepare to be busy, and his 22 years should allow him to deputize for most if not all of Ndidi’s absence.

The Foxes have a soft January which includes Southampton, Burnley, and West Ham in league play and a second leg against Villa.