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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

PL Preview: Wolves v. Leicester

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  • These 2 teams played to a 0-0 draw on the season’s opening day
  • 4 of Leicester City’s 6 losses this season have come on the road
  • Wolves have scored just 9 of their 35 goals in the 1st half of PL games

Leicester City has been eyeing second in the Premier League table for some time now.

With Man City on its February break, the Foxes can officially catch Pep Guardiola and take second place with victory on the road at Wolves on Friday, with kickoff set for 3 p.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

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Just two points back in third, Leicester City can overtake Man City should they top a Wolves squad licking its wounds. Thankfully for the hosts, the February break may have served to alleviate some of those injury concerns. Adama Traore suffered a double blow in the 0-0 draw with Manchester United before the hiatus, dislocating his shoulder and suffering a kick to the calf later that eventually forced him off. Thanks to the long break, Traore is expected to play some part in the match, even if he doesn’t start. If Traore begins on the bench, it could signal a first Premier League start for new signing Daniel Podence.

Leicester City will be without an impactful player as well, with Wilfred Ndidi likely to miss his second straight match, with Brendan Rodgers saying the Nigerian returned too quickly from a knee operation.

Injuries/suspensions

Wolves: OUT – Ruben Vinagre (thigh). QUESTIONABLE – Adama Traore (shoulder/calf).

Leicester City: OUT –  Nampalys Mendy (knee), Ryan Bennett (unable to face parent club), Daniel Amartey (ankle). QUESTIONABLE – Wilfried Ndidi (knee), Wes Morgan (illness), Matty James (Achilles).


Probable lineups

Wolves: Patricio; Jonny, Saiss, Coady, Boly, Doherty; Neves, Moutinho, Jota; Jimenez, Podence.

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell; Choudhury, Praet, Tielemans, Perez, Maddison; Vardy.


What they’re saying

Wolves defender Conor Coady on return of Willy Boly“He slotted straight back in and is a fantastic footballer. He is a brilliant person too to move forward in the team. You saw what he did on Saturday. He did exactly what he did before he got injured. He is a fantastic person to come back in. It’s not an easy game to come into either. He was brilliant and he does that every single game – you know what you are going to get from him. He has been a big miss since he has been injured, so to have him back is a huge thing for this football club.”

Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers on Wolves: “It will be a tough test. They are well organized, they’ve been together for a few years. Nuno [Espírito Santo] has done a great job there. I’m looking forward to the challenge of it.”


Prediction

The possible absence of Traore and Ndidi take a bit of sting out of this game, and that could see this headed for another draw. Both teams would rue a loss far more than they would fear a draw, and that’s sometimes how these battles play out. It would be great for the Foxes to find themselves second in the table, and Wolves could jump all the way to fifth, but ultimately the point is the most valuable. It won’t be as dull as the season opener, but a 1-1 draw with some excitement at the end could ultimately play out between two teams proficient at scoring second-half goals.

PL Preview: Leicester City v. Liverpool

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Among the Boxing Day fixture list, one game stands above all the rest. Leicester City v. Liverpool, live Thursday at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

While it doesn’t present the potentially enormous stakes it could have had the Foxes downed Manchester City last weekend, it still looms largest among the festive fixtures and could still be one of the final true tests for the Reds as they march towards not just a Premier League crown but also a potentially unbeaten league campaign. With a ten point lead and a game in hand, Liverpool could give itself a nearly insurmountable advantage atop the table should they emerge victorious, but defeat will procure doubt among the supporters with half the season still to go.

Leicester City will consider themselves very much in the title race despite the mountain to climb, given their narrow defeat at Anfield in the last meeting, a game that required a James Milner penalty in the dying seconds to secure victory for the Reds. The Foxes will be buoyed by the home crowd, unbeaten at King Power Stadium this year while conceding just five goals and keeping four clean sheets.

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The Reds have a tougher task than anticipated given the litany of injuries across the squad. Alongside long-term absentees Joel Matip, Fabinho, Dejan Lovren, and Nathaniel Clyne, they are also missing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who picked up an ankle problem at the Club World Cup. Jurgen Klopp was forced to move Jordan Henderson into the defensive unit during the semifinal in Qatar last week, and any other potential issues in the squad through the festive period could force a similar emergency shift for the Reds.

Leicester City is in much better shape health-wise, but will be monitoring the status of Harvey Barnes who also finds himself saddled with an ankle injury after the Man City loss, while Matty James is still out for a while longer as he builds up his fitness from a long-term Achilles injury.

Brendan Rodgers has prior history with Jurgen Klopp, beating the German handily while managing Liverpool in a pre-season game against Borussia Dortmund in 2014.

Injuries/suspensions

Leicester City: OUT – Matty James (Achilles). QUESTIONABLE – Harvey Barnes (ankle).

Liverpool: OUT – Dejan Lovren (hamstring), Fabinho (hamstring), Joel Matip (knee), Nathaniel Clyne (ACL), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (ankle). QUESTIONABLE


Projected lineups

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Chilwell, Evans, Soyuncu, Pereira; Ndidi, Tielemans, Maddison; Barnes, Vardy, Perez.

Liverpool: Alisson; Robertson, Gomez, van Dijk, Alexander-Arnold; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Keita; Mane, Firmino, Salah.


What they’re saying

Leicester City boss Rodgers on long-term Liverpool domination: “I think that’s pretty difficult now in this modern time. But it doesn’t take away that they’re a fantastic team. And now they have that feeling of winning which gives that hunger to win even more. For us, they and Manchester City are a great benchmark for a lot of the teams at this level. We always have to fight and improve and get as close as we possibly can to that level.”

Liverpool manager Klopp on Jamie Vardy“He is a massive threat obviously. He’s an exceptional striker what can you say? Since I’m in England he’s one of the top three. He’s always scoring, he’s difficult to defend, always on your shoulder running at your back playing the offside line. Really, really dangerous. The only thing you can do in football is try and avoid as many passes as you can to him and that’s what we’ll try. Leicester is not only Jamie Vardy. Brendan has done an excellent job there.”


Key stats

  • Leicester City is winless in its last five PL meetings against Liverpool, losing four and drawing one (last win: Feb 2017)
  • Neither side has kept a clean sheet in any of the last 7 PL meetings against one another
  • Liverpool has won its last 4 Boxing Day fixtures by a combined 11-0 score
  • Jamie Vardy has scored 29 goals in 2019, the most in the league – he has scored in each of his last three home games against Liverpool (5 goals)
  • Liverpool is unbeaten in its last 34 Premier League fixtures, and are the only PL side to have scored in every game so far this season

Prediction

The Reds are banged up, but in all other respects are the better side. Leicester City showed weaknesses against Manchester City, and they are ones Jurgen Klopp could exploit. Still, Jamie Vardy is on an undeniable tear, and his presence alone gives the Foxes a chance. An exciting 2-2 draw should give both sides a coveted point and keep Liverpool as clear favorites to win the league.

Premier League Preview: Man City v. Leicester City

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Raise your hand if you thought Saturday’s meeting between Manchester City and Leicester City (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and NBCSports.com) would turn out to be a head-to-head battle for the right to finish second, miles behind Liverpool, in the Premier League title race. If your hand is in the air, please put it down now because you’re lying and everyone knows it.

The two-time defending champions have struggled badly — by their own otherworldly standards, at least — and have already lost as many games (four) this season as they did all of last campaign. Two years ago, when they broke virtually every PL record, they lost just twice. The main culprit, beyond their own unrealistic standard and expectations, has been injuries to an already-thin defensive unit. When Vincent Kompany left in the summer, no replacement was signed; Aymeric Laporte suffered a serious knee injury in August and hasn’t played since; now, John Stones is also out. As such, Man City are currently on pace to concede 38 goals this season — an astounding defensive record for just about any other PL side, until you see they conceded just 23 and 27 in each of their title-winning campaigns.

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When one side falls down the pecking order, the door opens for another to capitalize and climb a few rungs higher. That’s exactly what Brendan Rodgers‘ Foxes have done this season, largely through their nearly impenetrable backline which is led by 23-year-old Caglar Soyuncu. The Turkish international joined Leicester in the summer of 2018 and played just six games in his first season at the King Power Stadium, before emerging as one of the best center backs in the world this campaign. Then, there’s Jamie Vardy, who has 16 goals through 17 games and looks set to smash his career-best output of 24 goals in the Foxes’ title-winning 2015-16 season.

Last time out, Leicester suffered a rare setback in the form of a 1-1 draw with Norwich City. It was the first time they had dropped points in the PL since losing to Liverpool in early October — a run of eight straight wins followed and saw them surge past the likes of City and Chelsea in the table.

Injuries/suspensions

Man City: OUT – John Stones (hamstring), Aymeric Laporte (knee), Leroy Sane (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Sergio Aguero (thigh), David Silva (leg)

Leicester: OUT – Matty James (achilles)


Projected lineups

Man City: Ederson — Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Mendy — Rodrigo, Gundogan — Mahrez, De Bruyne, Sterling — Jesus

Leicester: Schmeichel — Pereria, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell — Praet, Ndidi, Tielemans, Maddison, Gray — Vardy


What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola, on Leicester’s strong start: “Last year after the game, it was my feeling that this season they would be fighting for the top-four and it’s happened. They did really well last season when [Rodgers] took over the team. They have been so consistent this season and they are a fantastic team. They have a lot of quality up front and through the middle. At the back they are solid and they play so good on the counter-attack. They control all departments in the game.”

Rodgers, on the PL title race: “At the beginning, of the season nobody really expected us to be in the position that we’re in. However, for us, we have a belief in our work and how we work. The players have been absolutely first class throughout the season and this is another opportunity for us. We’re not even at the halfway point. There is still so much football to play. … It is still so early. You have just got to approach each game, be really focused and looked to bring the best quality game that you can.”


Prediction

The only sides to beat Leicester this season are Liverpool and Manchester United, a class of opponent which obviously includes Man City. The ease with which the Foxes can sit back and watch an opponent dominate possession, which City will undoubtedly do, and play for the counter-attack makes them an incredibly dangerous opposition for Guardiola and Co. Man City 2-2 Leicester.

PL Sunday preview: Leicester, Newcastle, Sheffield Utd, Wolves in action

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There will be no shortage of action and subplots during Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures, as Aston Villa host in-form Leicester City; Newcastle look to continue their winning ways against an improving Southampton side; Norwich City look for a way out of the relegation zone as they take on Sheffield United; and Wolverhampton Wanderers aim to continue their spectacular, unbeaten run against Brighton.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Aston Villa vs. Leicester City — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

December is upon us, and the team putting some form of pressure on top-of-the-table Liverpool is second-best Leicester City. Who would have thought?

In similar fashion to what the masses thought of the Foxes prior to the start of the 2015/16 season, the answer is that not many were sold on the notion that Brendan Rodgers and his team were going to be a flat-out success this season, especially after dealing out Harry Maguire to Manchester United.

Whether the onlookers believed or didn’t believe is a conversation that surely doesn’t bother the majority associated with the once-Premier League champions. The Foxes are on a seven-game winning streak and Rodgers was rewarded for his accomplishments thus far, signing a new contract on Friday that keeps him at the helm until 2025.

Aston Villa’s Dean Smith recognized that his opponents on Sunday are in stellar shape but also cautioned that playing his team at Villa Park will not be a walk in the park, despite only being a point above the red line.

“They are on a fantastic run of form but there aren’t many teams who will come away from Villa Park and think they’ve had an easy game,” Dean Smith said.

It’s not the blockbuster game that will freeze the soccer community, but from the sounds of it, Leicester’s visit to Birmingham will be an authentic battle between two teams that are on the opposite sides of the spectrum.

INJURIES: Aston Villa — OUT: Keinan Davis (hamstring), Jed Steer (achilles)| Leicester City — OUT: Matty James (calf) 

Newcastle vs. Southampton — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Southampton haven’t won three consecutive league matches since May of 2016.

That can change on Sunday at St. James Park, mostly if Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s gamble of starting the same lineup for a third straight game over the span of eight days pays off. But just as it can pay off, it can certainly backfire at the hands of a slowly-but-surely improving Newcastle side.

“It’s a huge month for us,” Steve Bruce said about his Magpies ahead of the match. “It’s season defining, I think it is for every team because there are so many games.

“I have always said that a few results along the way helps everybody, so we’ve given ourselves a nice platform going into the busy Christmas period.

“The spirit among the players, and their attitude and the way they are playing has delighted me.”

That said, as expected, Hasenhuttl likes his side’s chances after demonstrating to him that they’re more than willing to follow order and fight for the crest at all costs.

“In the last three games… the team [has been] playing much more committed,” he said. “When we play like this we create chances, we don’t give the opponents chances, we are defending higher and then keep the opponent far away from our goal and this is more our style we want to play.”

INJURIES: Newcastle — OUT: Lascelles (Knee), Ritchie (ankle) | Southampton — OUT: Armstrong (calf)

Norwich City vs. Sheffield United — 9:00 a.m ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Just a couple of months ago, Daniel Farke and his players were touching the clouds.

A 3-2 win against the defending champions Manchester City was the root cause of that state of hysteria that is now nowhere to be found. With one win in their last 10 matches, the Canaries have been grounded and more. In fact, Farke’s rhetoric on his team and their future in the league says it all.

“We are a newly-promoted side who have not spent any money, so in each and every second at this level we must be at our best,” he said leading up to Sunday’s match. “We told everyone before the season this would be a difficult challenge.”

Promoted with them last season, Sheffield United, too, didn’t let lavish spendings over the summer do the talking. But even then, Chris Wilder‘s men have done a lot with a little, putting together formidable, team-oriented performances. The Blades have surprised many with their 19 points after 15 matches.

Sunday presents itself as a game in which Sheffield has the upper hand, but Wilder knows Norwich far too well. In fact, it’s a team they were constantly chasing in England’s second division this time last year.

“They were the outstanding team in the Championship last season,” he said. “I was delighted to get as close as we did to them.”

INJURIES: Norwich City — OUT: Hanley (groin), Drmic (hamstring), Timm Klose (knee) | Sheffield United — OUT: None

Brighton Hove and Albion vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers  — 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN

Very few teams in the league have overcome adversity this season like Wolves.

A team that surprised many last season, started the season off in a way that was unlike anything Nuno Espirito Santo had put forward before: a sluggish, disjointed brand of play. Wolves have been participating in European competition for the first time since 1980, however, and have 28 games under their belts this season.

Riding a 10-game unbeaten streak (the best active streak in the league), Espirito Santo decided to give his players a rare Thursday off from all training ahead of Sunday’s showdown against a hungry Brighton.

“I hope [the players] enjoyed their day off [on Thursday],” the Portuguese manager said. “It was well deserved and they needed it. It was important they understand it’s a day to rest, recover, stay at home and be with family and join us today to be ready for Sunday.”

Coming off an emphatic win at the Emirates, Brighton are aware of the tough task that will be defeating a red-hot Wolves. But as Graham Potter says and just experienced against Arsenal, anything and everything goes in the Premier League.

“Anything is possible in this league, that’s the way you have to think or else it becomes boring,” Potter said. “We have to keep working towards what we’re trying to achieve and maintain the spirit around the group.”

INJURIES: Brighton  OUT: Izquierdo (knee) | Wolves  OUT: Boly (leg), Gibbs-White (back), Shabani (knee)