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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.

Premier League Top Four race: Stock up, stock down (and level)

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We’ve been telling you for weeks that the first three matchdays after the January transfer window were going to tell us a lot about the Premier League’s Top Four race.

Now that we’re staring down that window of matches with the window closed, which candidates improved or devalued their Top Four stock.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

We’re ignoring impending champions Liverpool and no-doubt Top Four side Manchester City. We’re drawing a line above Southampton, who is nine points back of fourth with 14 matches to go and four teams ahead of it.

Everyone else is fair game.

Leicester City: Stock level. Veteran PL defender Ryan Bennett arrives on loan from Wolves for some nice depth. You might want to say stock down without a marked improvement at center back and I’m still not sold on the Foxes finishing any higher than fourth, but a 14-point gap on fifth is huge.

Chelsea: Stock down. Frank Lampard‘s Blues signed no one despite the lifting of a transfer ban, so obviously Kylian Mbappe isn’t there. And Frank probably should’ve consulted someone before issuing this comedic bit:

“Now what remains to be seen will be seen and from my view – and this is not to talk down ourselves because we’re six points clear in fourth – now we become probably the underdogs and the outsiders to some point because the teams around us have strengthened.”

Look, Frank. It’s stunning that the your bosses didn’t splash the cash and you’re the loser of this group of six. Still, If you blow a six-point lead on the field, that’s gonna be a you problem.

Manchester United: Stock up. There’s no guarantee that Bruno Fernandes will adjust to the Premier League quickly, but he’s a massive talent and a big capture. And I’ll say this: Not getting a striker until the very last minute is laughable, but Odion Ighalo is more than capable of being a solid short-term fix. Five goals at AFCON, prolific finishing in China, and 20- and 16-goal PL seasons in his locker. 

Tottenham Hotspur: Stock up. Champions League drop off is another story, but Steven Bergwijn and Gedson Fernandes bring more spunk and danger to a side that often looked like it was resting on, well, whatever laurels you get from getting a lot better over a few years and going to a UCL final. Jose Mourinho adding wide danger reminds us that he’s done a lot with false nines before, and Harry Kane will come backl.

Wolves: Stock level. Daniel Podence is a truly intriguing add and gives their attack some relief during what will be a congested challenge for both the PL Top Four and Europa League. But ultimately, Nuno Espirito Santo is trusting that the horses he’s been riding aren’t going to tire. Hanging onto Raul Jimenez is big, but he’s already admitted to needing some respite.

Sheffield United: Stock up. It’s difficult to overstate the message the Blades sent their room by saying, “We see you in the top half. We didn’t expect to be there either. But the big boys are shuffling their feet so here’s the most expensive player we’ve ever bought. Why not, right?” It’s a big statement. The Blades also have six-straight winnable league fixtures before a run of the big boys. With a Championship foe in the FA Cup, the Blades don’t have a free skate in terms of focus but at this point you might like their odds in that tournament — at least as much as anyone not named Liverpool or Man City.

January transfer window grades

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With the January transfer window now shut, it is time to reflect on which Premier League clubs did the best business as we dish out some grades.

Who doesn’t love to rank which team did the best business? Exactly. Here it goes.

[ TRANSFER TRACKER: Full list of January PL deals


Arsenal: B+
Sensible if not unspectacular signings as Cedric Soares and Pablo Mari arrived on loan. Arsenal needed additions in defense and they’ve done that but the caliber of signings are perhaps a little lower than what many were expecting. Mikel Arteta has had a big impact early on and knew the Gunners defense needed shoring up. Cedric and Mari should have the desired impact. Keeping hold of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was linked with a move to Barcelona, was also a big plus for the Gunners.

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Aston Villa: B
They made five new signings in January and they were forced to do so after injuries to Tom Heaton, Wesley and John McGinn. Danny Drinkwater and Pepe Reina arrived on loan and bring experience, while Mbwana Samatta is a wild-card signing who may take a little time to settle and Louie Barry is one for the future. Borja Baston arrived on deadline day as they got the deal over the line. A busy and solid January for Dean Smith.


Bournemouth: D-
No new arrivals at Bournemouth and perhaps most importantly, no departures. Josh King, Ryan Fraser, Callum Wilson and Nathan Ake were all wanted but they have stuck around to help Eddie Howe‘s men battle against relegation. Given that is the case, it was surprising that Bournemouth haven’t added reinforcements, especially in defense as they are struggling with injuries. They have plenty of options up top but they’ve struggled to score goals and the Cherries may rue not doing business when the final day of the season rolls around.


Brighton & Hove Albion: D
Graham Potter‘s side have played well all season but have just lacked cutting edge so it is a surprise they haven’t shuffled their strikers around. Aaron Mooy’s loan deal was made permanent and Tariq Lamptey is a very promising player who has arrived from Chelsea but they probably need a couple more players to help drag themselves out of a relegation battle.


Burnley: C
A quiet window for Burnley but that is how Sean Dyche likes it. They brought in Josh Brownhill from Bristol City who will add poise to their midfield, while they brought back Nakhi Well from a loan spell at QPR then sold him to Bristol City. Shrewd business, as usual, from Burnley.


Chelsea: D-
No new signings for Frank Lampard who still hasn’t signed a single player as Blues boss. Lampard looked disappointed when he spoke on deadline day as the transfer ban had been lifted after appeal but Chelsea didn’t make the most of that opportunity. Olivier Giroud didn’t leave after all and Lampard couldn’t bring in Edinson Cavani or Dries Mertens late on to bolster their attack. A poor window for a young Chelsea side who needed a few additions to cement their spot in the top four.

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Crystal Palace: D
Not a great window for Roy Hodgson‘s side after injuries hit them hard over the winter months. Cenk Tosun will score a few goals but his loan move from Everton isn’t really the answer and although Hodgson spoke about Palace spending big and wanting to be backed in the window, nothing was spent. Wilfried Zaha is still around, so that’s the main positive.


Everton: C
The Toffees didn’t do any major business which was a little surprising but new boss Carlo Ancelotti is still getting to know his players and they are far enough away from the relegation scrap to stick with what they have. Youngster Jarrad Branthwaite arrived from Carlisle United. That was it. Richarlison was linked with a big move to Barcelona but that was never really going to happen. Quiet window.


Leicester City: C-
The Foxes swooped to sign Ryan Bennett on loan from Wolves on deadline day and they didn’t really need to do anything in January. Brendan Rodgers has a strong squad with plenty of options and they are in third place in the table for a reason. Many believed they needed extra cover for Jamie Vardy but Kelechi Iheanacho and Ayoze Perez have stepped up.


Liverpool: C
Takumi Minamino came in early on a bargain deal and in truth, how on earth do you strengthen this team? Jurgen Klopp kept hold of some of his squad players as Xherdan Shaqiri was linked with a move away but right now this Liverpool squad is so strong and everybody wants to stay. An easy window.


Man City: C
Getting Aymeric Laporte back to full fitness was like a new signing and Man City and Pep Guardiola rarely do business in January and they didn’t do anything. That said, a new center back has to be the main aim in the summer.


Man United: C+
Bruno Fernandes finally arrived for up to $88 million which is great news for the next few years but why did it take so long? United could have really used him in the last few weeks. Anyway, it is done. A loan deal for Odion Ighalo was struck on deadline day as a short-term option with Marcus Rashford out injured, as they were linked with signing Islam Slimani, Josh King and many others but Ighalo was the man to get a dream move to Old Trafford.

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Newcastle United: B+
You know what, that was a really good window for the Magpies. They had injuries and addressed them with Danny Rose coming in on loan at left back and Nabil Bentaleb will add extra quality in midfield. Valentino Lazaro will add some depth to the wide areas too and the only thing missing was a striker as they missed out on Olivier Giroud.


Norwich City: F
It is clear the Canaries think they are going to get relegated. They do not spend big in the transfer market and they have picked up Lukas Rupp and Ondrej Duda who will bolster their options in midfield and attack. If Norwich were serious about staying up they would have spent $50-60 million in this window but that isn’t their model and the yo-yo club have had enough of saddling themselves with debt when relegation arrives.


Sheffield United: B+
Signing Sander Berge for a club-record fee was a huge surprise and the Norwegian midfielder is one of the brightest young central midfielders in Europe. Chris Wilder made a few other shrewd signings in Jack Rodwell, Jack Robinson plus young Greek defender Panagiotis Retsos and young Dutch striker Zivkovic also arrived. For a newly-promoted team who are pushing for European qualification, this was a great window.


Southampton: C
Their recent form suggests the squad is good enough to be midtable in the Premier League so they didn’t need any additions but after losing Cedric and Yoshida on loan ahead of their contracts expiring (both were good deals as they received loan fees for players they would lose in the summer for nothing) they only brought in Kyle Walker-Peters on loan from Spurs. Ralph Hasenhuttl will be eyeing a big clear out in the summer as Saints have a huge number of players out on loan.


Tottenham Hotspur: B
Jose Mourinho will be fairly pleased with their business but admitted it would have been better had they signed a striker. With Harry Kane injured they pushed hard to sign Edinson Cavani, Willian Jose, Olivier Giroud and others, but couldn’t get them over the line. Exciting winger Steven Bergwijn arrived and Christian Eriksen finally signed for Inter Milan for $20 million in a great piece of business for a player who was out of contract this summer. Gedson Fernandes is on loan with a view to buy permanently and Mourinho has done some decent business.

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Watford: D-
Pretty poor window for the Hornets and that was probably because they were playing so well at the start of it, then Nigel Pearson‘s side suffered a few disappointing results late in January. They could probably have done with adding another defender and they tried hard to sign Ben Gibson on loan. Wide player Ignacio Pussetto did arrive and he looks like he will have a big impact.


West Ham United: C
David Moyes did some business late on and boy did the Hammers need that. Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek arrived in the final days of the window and Darren Randolph provides cover in the goalkeeping department. West Ham needed to do more business but couldn’t get deals over the line for Gedson Fernandes and a few others. Bowen should help deliver the goals they need to get themselves out of trouble.


Wolverhampton Wanderers: C+
Some savvy buys from Wolves as they continue to purchase real quality with their links to Jorge Mendes. Daniel Podence is a great signing and will be an immediate starter while youngsters Leonardo Campana and Luke Matheson arrived and will be ones for the future.

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Transfer rumors: Deadline Day drama

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The drama is coming thick and fast on transfer deadline day in the Premier League, as the latest transfer rumor roundup focuses on the deals

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

[ TRANSFER TRACKER: Full list of January PL deals ]

Here is a look at the deals unfolding with just a few hours of the transfer window to go, and we will have you covered with all the ins and outs throughout today here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Josh King was the subject of a cheeky bid from Manchester United but it looks like the Bournemouth striker will stay on the south coast. King, 28, came through United’s academy under the guidance of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but it looks like their move for the Norwegian international came too late in the window for Eddie Howe‘s side to accept.

West Ham United are pushing hard to sign Hull City striker Jarrod Bowen, 23, for $26.3 million. Bowen has scored 17 times this season in the Championship and Crystal Palace were also said to be interested in the young attacker. The Hammers badly need some help in the goalscoring department and Bowen is a real fox in the box.

Tottenham will not be re-signing Gareth Bale as Zinedine Zidane confirms for the umpteenth time that the Welshman will be staying at Real Madrid. That sound you can hear is Spurs fans groaning in despair, once again, as they thought for a second Bale was returning to their half of north London.

It is the tale of one in and one out at Wolves as 17-year-old left back Luke Matheson could be joining them from Rochdale for $1.3 million, while they are willing to let center back Ryan Bennett join Leicester City on loan for the rest of the season.

Sheffield United are also closing in on a deal for Bayer Leverkusen’s young Greek defender Panagiotis Retsos, 21, who has reportedly passed a medical and is another signing for the future after adding Zivkovic.

Jose Mourinho and Spurs do not look like they will do any more business after signing Gedson Fernandes and Steven Bergwijn this month, as well as adding Giovani Lo Celso on a permanent deal. A deal for Willian Jose is off as Real Sociedad do not want to sell their Brazilian striker.

In terms of outgoings at Tottenham, Mourinho has admitted that Victor Wanyama could leave on loan with Celtic said to be interested in their former midfielder.

Transfer Tracker: Every January done deal in Premier League

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Below are all the completed incoming and outgoing first-team transfers by Premier League teams this winter. This January transfer tracker will be updated in real time to reflect completed transfers that make it through to confirmation before the window shuts.

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Player names with clickable links will send you to the story for that particular signing.

ARSENAL

IN
Pablo Mari – loan, Flamengo
Cedric – loan, Southampton

OUT
Konstantinos Mavropanos – loan, Nurnberg
Emile Smith-Rowe – loan, Huddersfield Town

ASTON VILLA

IN
Mbwana Samatta – $15.7m, KRC Genk
Danny Drinkwater – loan, Chelsea
Pepe Reina – loan, AC Milan
Borja Baston – undisclosed, Swansea City

OUT
Jonathan Kodija – $4.4m, Al Gharafa
Scott Hogan – loan, Birmingham City

BOURNEMOUTH

IN
[none]

OUT
Asmir Begovic – loan, AC Milan

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

IN
Aaron Mooy – $9m, Huddersfield Town
Tariq Lamptey – undisclosed, Chelsea

OUT
Anders Dreyer – undisclosed, FC Midtjylland

BURNLEY

IN
Josh Brownhill – $11.8m, Bristol City

OUT
Nahki Wells – $6.6m, Bristol City

CHELSEA

IN
[none]

OUT
Danny Drinkwater – loan, Aston Villa
Victor Moses – loan, AC Milan
Michael Hector – $8.8m, Fulham
Tariq Lamptey – undisclosed, Brighton

CRYSTAL PALACE

IN
Cenk Tosun – loan, Everton

OUT
[none]

EVERTON

IN
[none]

OUT
Cenk Tosun – loan, Crystal Palace

LEICESTER CITY

IN
Ryan Bennett – loan, Wolves

OUT
Andy King – loan, Huddersfield Town

LIVERPOOL

IN
Takumi Minamino – $12.7m, RB Leipzig

OUT
Rhian Brewster – loan, Swansea City

MANCHESTER CITY

IN
[none]

OUT
Patrick Roberts – loan, Middlesbrough
Lukas Nmecha – loan, Middlesbrough

MANCHESTER UNITED

IN
Bruno Fernandes – $88m, Sporting CP
Nathan Bishop – undisclosed, Southend United
Odion Ighalo – loan, Shanghai Shenhua

OUT
Ashley Young – loan, Inter Milan
Marcos Rojo – loan, Estudiantes

NEWCASTLE UNITED

IN
Nabil Bentaleb – loan, Schalke
Valentino Lazaro – loan, Inter Milan
Danny Rose – loan, Tottenham Hotspur

OUT
Ki Sung-yeung – Release
Rolando Aarons – loan, Motherwell

NORWICH CITY

IN
Ondrej Duda – loan, Hertha Berlin
Lukas Rupp – $747k, Hoffenheim

OUT
Carlton Morris – loan, MK Dons
Denis Srbeny – undisclosed, Paderborn

SHEFFIELD UNITED

IN
Sander Berge – $26m, Genk
Jack Rodwell – unattached
Jack Robinson – undisclosed, Nottingham Forest

OUT
Callum Robinson – loan, West Bromwich Albion

SOUTHAMPTON

IN
Kyle Walker-Peters – loan, Tottenham Hotspur

OUT
Josh Sims – loan, New York Red Bulls
Cedric – loan, Arsenal
Maya Yoshida – loan, Sampdoria

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

IN
Steven Bergwijn – $44.8m, PSV Eindhoven
Gedson Fernandes – loan, Benfica
Giovani Lo Celso – triggered option to buy at $35m, Real Betis

OUT
Christian Eriksen – $22.8 million, Inter Milan
Kyle Walker-Peters – loan, Southampton
Cameron Carter-Vickers – loan, Luton Town

WATFORD

IN
Ignacio Pussetto – $12m, Udinese
Joao Pedro – $5.9m, Fluminense

OUT
Marvin Zeegelaar – $3m, Udinese
Dimitri Foulquier – loan, Granada

WEST HAM UNITED

IN
Darren Randolph – $7m, Middlesbrough
Tomas Soucek – loan, Slavia Prague
Jarrod Bowen – $24m, Hull City

OUT
Roberto – loan, Alaves

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS

IN
Daniel Podence – $29.2m, Olympiakos
Leonardo Campana – free, Barcelona
Enzo Loiodice – loan, Dijon

OUT
Patrick Cutrone – loan, Fiorentina
Ivan Cavaleiro – trigger option to buy $17.6m, Fulham
Rafa Mir – loan, Huesca
Jesus Vallejo – loan, Granada
Ryan Bennett – loan, Leicester City