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PL Preview: Chelsea vs. Leicester City

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  • Chelsea has beaten Leicester in 12 of their last 14 meetings
  • Leicester City has lost five straight road games vs. Top 6
  • Marcos Alonso‘s 12 PL goals over the last 2 seasons are more than any defender

The battle for second place is on, and Chelsea will want to hold serve at home as they host Leicester City at 10:00 a.m. ET at Stamford Bridge live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

Antonio Conte has fallen under some fire this season with Chelsea back in third place in the Premier League, but they’ve closed the gap on Manchester United and sit just a point behind the second spot. Still, with the Blues having drawn three straight matches, they will look to get back to winning ways.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Meanwhile, Leicester City is struggling mightily, with a 3-0 victory over Huddersfield Town their only three points since December 13th. They failed to find the back of the net against League One side Fleetwood Town during their midweek FA Cup matchup, although the side fielded was a relatively weak one without the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. The former should be ready for this match after sitting out for a week with a groin problem, while Wes Morgan and Danny Simpson continue to sit with hamstring problems, part of the reason why the club has coughed up nine goals in its last five matches, and has just two clean sheets since late October.

INJURIES: Chelsea — QUESTIONABLE: Ross Barkley | Leicester City — OUT: Wes Morgan (hamstring), Danny Simpson (hamstring). QUESTIONABLE: Robert Huth (ankle), Jamie Vardy (groin).


What they’re saying

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on not pursuing Jamie Vardy: “We didn’t speak about him, but I repeat we are talking about a really good player. For sure Vardy is a really good player and I don’t like to speak about players of other teams, but in this case we are not talking about transfer market.”

Leicester City manager Claude Puel on playing big clubs: “I think in our games against the great teams, we have always had good situations and good possibilities – like against Manchester United and Tottenham. The ambition is not just for us to score but to continue to play after scoring and to always keep good ambition in our play.”

Prediction

How about this for a nugget? Antonio Conte has won 25 of his first 30 home games in charge of Chelsea, a joint club record with Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti. Both of those managers lost their 31st game (thanks Opta!). Just on that alone, Leicester City wins 2-1, and Jamie Vardy scores the winner. Conte is berated for his tactics, but in reality, the club’s lack of midfield depth is to blame, as Tiemoue Bakayoko is still learning the Premier League ropes.

Transfer needs for all 20 Premier League clubs

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Everyone could use a Harry Kane or N'Golo Kante, so we’ll try to avoid saying each side could improve at center midfield or striker unless it’s almost absolutely the *case.

[ ARSENAL-CHELSEA: 4 things | Player ratings ]

*Pretty much everyone really could use a striker. Apologies in advance.

Arsenal

Jack Wilshere‘s return to form and fitness helps their center midfield, but Arsene Wenger seemingly hasn’t found his answer in the middle of the park whether the addition of Mohamed Elneny in the past or Granit Xhaka this season. Laurent Koscielny‘s surprising recent struggles also show just how few answers the club has behind him at center back.

Bournemouth

Need to find that leading scorer either Jermain Defoe or Joshua King was supposed to be, or find the playmaker who puts them in position to start burying goals again.

Brighton and Hove Albion

Offensive players of any kind, as the league’s worst offense has allowed teams to focus on Pascal Gross.

Burnley

A versatile midfielder who can play centrally or on the left would solve multiple problems. Center back insurance would help, too.

Chelsea

Cheekily, we’d suggest bringing some of its many stars back from loan, as Kurt Zouma (Stoke) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Crystal Palace) have been mighty influential at their clubs. It’s more about personage than positions with Chelsea, as Alex Sandro of Juventus has been mentioned often. Will Ross Barkley change his mind about the Blues, or vice versa?

Crystal Palace

Still need an answer at striker behind Christian Benteke and Bakary Sako, and the injuries to Scott Dann and Jason Puncheon mean they could use help essentially everywhere.

Everton

The Toffees have made no secret of their need for a finishing center forward. No other team needs a positional upgrade more than Everton at CF.

Huddersfield Town

An upgrade at center back seems the prime need for David Wagner‘s men.

Leicester City

A center back to pair with Harry Maguire, and depth down the right side. Both become secondary to playmaker if Riyad Mahrez leaves the King Power Stadium.

Wes Morgan and Robert Huth (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Liverpool

Virgil Van Dijk solves a lot, but the club could stand to upgrade the position beyond him and Joel Matip. Instead, Jurgen Klopp might buy more attackers. An alternative to Jordan Henderson would be nice, but would also be superfluous with Naby Keita arriving in the summer.

Manchester City

Center forward depth in the short-term with Gabriel Jesus injured, and left back cover might be on Guardiola’s mind. Another center back seems likely to arrive this month or this summer.

Manchester United

Jose Mourinho could add anywhere outside of goalkeeper and his attacking trident. Left back remains a priority, especially if he sells Luke Shaw.

Newcastle United

The Magpies need a more effective Premier League striker than Joselu or Dwight Gayle, an improved left back, and a box-to-box center midfielder. Rafa Benitez will reportedly hunt for a goalkeeper, too.

Southampton

Still need a center back, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Mauricio Pellegrino attempt to find a solution for any spot besides the one occupied by Oriol Romeu.

Stoke City

The Potters have allowed a league-worst 47 goals, and it’d be worse without Jack Butland. A left back is needed, as is either a defensive mid or right back depending on where they want to deploy Geoff Cameron (which means they also could use cover for both in case injury).

Swansea City

With a new manager you can pick a position, and Swans may want to improve it. The priority will be players who can produce goals, as Fernando Llorente and Gylfi Sigurdsson were not adequately replaced.

Tottenham Hotspur

Another winger? Spurs may have the least amount of needs in the league outside of Man City.

Watford

Full backs might be top of the list.

West Bromwich Albion

The Baggies have to find a better way to utilize big forward Salomon Rondon, who is quite gifted. Maybe it’s a partner striker, maybe a playmaker.

West Ham United

Up the middle, besides forward. The Hammers will look to address center back and center midfield. They are alright out wide and across the top.

Premier League preview: Newcastle vs. Leicester City

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  • Newcastle United welcome back Jamaal Lascelles and Christian Atsu and has a clean bill of health.
  • Leicester City has no new injury concerns with Matty James (Achilles) and Robert Huth (ankle) the only absentees.
  • Newcastle United have lost only two of their last 17 home league meetings with Leicester City, although the Foxes won on their last visit to St James’ Park in November 2015.
  • Jamie Vardy is one away from becoming the first Leicester City player to hit 50 Premier League goals.
  • Shinji Okazaki scored in both fixtures the last time these sides met in 2015/16, making Newcastle the only team he’s scored in more than one match against in the Premier League.

Newcastle has lost five of its last six games, but they return home to try and turn things around with Leicester City coming to St. James Park on Saturday evening. (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Rafa Benitez has plenty of big-game experience – usually in UEFA Champions League matches – but now his Newcastle side is in a relegation battle and needs a big performance to create some space between the side and the drop zone.

Leicester City meanwhile has won two games on the bounce and has lost just one game in its last nine fixtures, showing good form with Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Damarei Gray showing their talent on a week-by-week basis.

What they’re saying

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez on his team’s recent results: “We have to improve as a team to be sure we can compete against some of the top sides. The teams at the top at the moment, we are a little bit far away, but still we could do something against Liverpool, for example. I think it is important that the next two games at home, if we can compete, we can win. If we cannot compete – like happened in the second half against Manchester United or Chelsea – we cannot win. As I have said before, we have to maximize what we have, and what we have is fantastic fans behind the team, at home and away. So, they have to show again that they support the team because these are the players we have.”

Leicester City manager Claude Puel on his side’s performance since joining the club: “I don’t know if I expected this but the most important thing is to continue this work and to keep building momentum and confidence. It is important to get results for confidence and to try and improve all the time. Time will tell. For me it is about keeping a good focus and concentration on the next game and to try and play a strong game.”

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Prediction: Newcastle will come out with plenty of energy and spirit, but defensive frailties, even with the return of Jamal Lascelles will cause them to lose as the quality of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez take over. Leicester City 2-1 Newcastle

PL preview: Leicester City vs. Man City

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  • Man City unbeaten in the PL (10W-1D-0L)
  • 38 goals scored in 11 games; 16 in their last 4
  • Leicester unbeaten in last 5 games (2W-3D-0L)

It took an early-season managerial change, but Leicester City have managed to turn around another spiraling-out-of-control campaign in recent weeks, only to return from the international break as Pep Guardiola‘s irresistible Manchester City side makes its yearly visit to the King Power Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

After winning just one of their first eight Premier League games this season, Leicester made the bold decision to fire Craig Shakespeare four months into his tenure as the club’s full-time manager. In came former Southampton boss Claude Puel, who has a win and a draw in his first two games in charge (on the back of a win in Michael Appleton’s lone game as interim manager). With seven points from three games following Shakespeare’s dismissal, the Foxes sit on 13 points and are suddenly up to 12th in the PL table.

A little further up the table — say, the very top by a wide(ning) margin — you’ll find Man City, winners of 15 straight in all competitions (nine in the PL), scorers of 15 more goals than the next closest side, and runaway title favorites just past the quarter mark of the 2017-18 season. This is what Guardiola was hired to do at City, and he’s delivering a year or two ahead of schedule.

The only thing likely to stop City from running away with the title would be a series of injuries and/or health scares felling key figures — the first of which nearly occurred this week, as star striker Sergio Aguero fainted during halftime of Argentina’s friendly against Nigeria. Aguero has since returned to Manchester and been given a “perfect” bill of healthy by the club’s medical staff (see below). City’s new all-time leading goalscorer, Aguero has eight in eight PL games and leads a side currently on pace to score 131 goals this season.

What they’re saying

Claude Puel, on Guardiola and his new job: “He is a great manager, a fantastic manager. His teams keep possession and they counter attack well. They are the best team in Europe in this moment. … It is amazing. I am enjoying it because the feeling of the players is very good. They work with attention and a good focus.”

Pep Guardiola, on Aguero and other injuries: “The doctor says he’s perfect. He was conscious all the time in Argentina and he’s okay. Nothing to be worried about. … I have something in mind to replace (Nicolas) Otamendi. We have (Eliaquim) Mangala, maybe Kompany can come back. Kyle (Walker) can play there. … I don’t know if (Fabian) Delph will able to play because in four sessions this week, he trained two. Hopefully we can recover him, because he is so important.”

INJURIES: Leicester — OUT: Robert Huth (foot); QUESTIONABLE: Vicente Iborra (ankle) | Man City — OUT: Benjamin Mendy (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Raheem Sterling (back), Vincent Kompany (calf), Fabian Delph (calf)

Prediction

While Leicester have seen an uptick in results of late, their defensive record remains spotty, at best, against sides induce far less terror than Man City. The game should set up in Leicester’s favor, though: City will have 70 or so percent of possession, which means more than a few chances to hit them on the counter. There’s a 10 percent chance Leicester get something from this one, and a 90 percent chance City turn them into just another statistic.

PL Sunday preview: New bosses battle; Brighton vs. Saints

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The battle of Leicester City and Everton’s newly installed managers is the highlights of Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures, but not before PL new boys Brighton & Hove Albion host Southampton in a south-coast derby.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Man City’s historic start; Man United, Arsenal win ]

Brighton vs. Southampton — 9:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

All three of this year’s newly promoted sides — Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town — entered the 10th weekend of the season as a top-12 side. On Sunday, it’s Brighton, who finished a close second to Newcastle in the Championship last season, who reunite an old rivalry with a fellow south-coast side, Southampton, at Falmer Stadium. Through sheer consistency, the Seagulls have established themselves as a functional top-flight side.

“What we have done over these nine games is we have been in every game,” Brighton boss Chris Hughton said this week. “Even the games against Manchester City and Arsenal, both games we have lost 2-0, but we were in the game. If there is any statement, it is that we should not be frightened of the challenges we have and I think we have got enough quality and desire in the squad to make a good account of ourselves in any games. Whether that wins you enough games, that is different. It is goals that win you games and at the moment we are doing OK.”

Saints, meanwhile, are still adjusting to life under new manager Mauricio Pellegrino, as they’ve won just one of their last four in the PL and the goals still aren’t coming. The lack of scoring is a trend that carried over from last season under Claude Puel, when Southampton scored just 41 times en route to an eighth-place finish. That lone victory came on their last outing, though, courtesy of Sofiane Boufal’s brilliant individual effort, so perhaps brighter days are indeed on the horizon.

INJURIES: Brighton — OUT: Steve Sidwell (back), Beram Kayal (fitness), Sam Baldock (fitness) | Southampton — OUT: Mario Lemina (ankle)

[ MORE: England top Spain, win U-17 World Cup ]

Leicester City vs. Everton — 12 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com

First went Craig Shakespeare on Oct. 17, followed in short order by Ronald Koeman six days later. Leicester and Everton, respectively, were second and third to fire a manager during the 2017-18 PL season (more than a month after Crystal Palace sent Frank De Boer packing), and now the two sides face off on Sunday. Former Saints boss Puel is the new man in charge at the King Power Stadium, site of Sunday’s clash, while David Unsworth hopes to impress Toffees owner Farhad Moshiri during game no. 1 of his trial run as interim manager.

After nine games played, both sides are nearer to the relegation zone than they would have imagined this season, as Leicester currently sit 15th, a point ahead of 18th-place Everton.

“It is not about me or any individual, it is about us as a team and club coming together and showing the fighting spirit and commitment we had throughout that 90 minutes,” Unsworth said this week. “Even at 2-0 we kept going and got the goal. You could see the work rate, spirit and commitment — that is what we are looking for. We can iron out issues and problems and it is a great start, something to really build and work on.”

Leicester were victorious in the fourth round of the EFL Cup, knocking of Championship side Leeds United 3-1 on Tuesday. 21-year-old Kelechi Iheanacho scored his first goal (to go with an assist) for the Foxes after arriving from Manchester City in the summer to give Puel something more to consider when he picks his first starting lineup on Sunday.

INJURIES: Leicester — OUT: Robert Huth (foot), Matty James (achilles) | Everton — OUT: Ross Barkley (hamstring), Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), Seamus Coleman (leg), Yannick Bolasie (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Morgan Schneiderlin (illness)