Youri Tielemans

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What we love about Leicester City

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This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be detailing what we love about each Premier League club competing in the 2019-20 season and next up it is Leicester City.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Each day we will release details on why who adore each team in particular as we remind ourselves just how awesome the PL is as we await its return following the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Time to focus on the Foxes.


That 2015-16 Premier League title win: How could we not start with this? The 5000-1 shots and favorites for relegation stunned the entire world with possibly the greatest upset in the history of sports. Claudio Ranieri‘s unfancied side won the Premier League by staying tight defensively and allowing N’Golo Kante to run the show in midfield and the duo of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez to rip teams apart on the counter attack. With plenty of heavyweights having a down year, Leicester timed their push for the title to perfection and the glorious scenes on the final home game against Everton saw Andrea Bocelli sing on the pitch as Ranieri and his unlikely heroes hoisted the trophy into the air. Leicester’s title win from 2015-16 will be talked about 100 years from now, and probably longer than that. The entire city of Leicester and the soccer world will never, ever forget it.

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Jamie Vardy: His part in Leicester’s incredible 2015-16 season will see him go down in folklore and his incredible rise to stardom is one of the great rags to riches stories in recent years. Playing in local leagues in England in his early 20s, Vardy made his way up through the leagues and arrived at Leicester from the non-league game in 2012. A few years later he was leading them to the Premier League title, scoring important goals for England and starring in the UEFA Champions League as the Foxes reached the quarterfinals in 2016-17. This season, at the age of 33, Vardy has regained his form and is the leading goalscorer in the Premier League after retiring from the international game. His pace, grit and finishing ability is incredible and Vardy is the kind of player you love to have on your team, even if opponents hate his attitude of never giving up.

Jamie Vardy
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Their current crop of extremely talented youngsters: With the Foxes currently in third place in the Premier League table after an early-season title push, there is a lot to be excited about this young team assembled by Brendan Rodgers and thanks to some very smart planning by those in charge behind-the-scenes at Leicester. Thanks to the building blocks put in place by their late owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and carried on by his son Aiyawatt, affectionately known as Top, Leicester are one of the best run clubs in the Premier League and continue to buy talented youngsters from across Europe and plan for departures and a seamless transition within their squads. After selling Harry Maguire to Man United last summer for $100 million, they already had Caglar Soyuncu waiting in the wings and he’s been one of the stars of 2019-20 at center back. Many would argue this Leicester side are better to watch than the team which won the title in 2015-16 with James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Perez buzzing around underneath Vardy, Wilfried Ndidi and Youri Tielemans holding down midfield and full backs Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell bombing on from full back. The future is bright.

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Brendan Rodgers’ playing philosophy: Given the points above about Leicester’s youngsters starring, there is plenty more to come from them under Rodgers in the coming years. Despite his critics, you can never doubt that Rodgers’ teams play flowing, attractive soccer and we’ve seen that at Swansea, Liverpool, Celtic and now Leicester over the years. Rodgers is a leader who has a clear playing philosophy and that has been taken on very quickly by these Leicester players. The Northern Irishman will no doubt be linked with plenty more Premier League giants and some of Europe’s biggest teams but right now he’s in a great spot at Leicester as he looks certain to lead them to the Champions League. He’s doing all that on top of making Leicester an exciting team to watch.

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Biggest surprise PL teams this season

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Which team have been the biggest surprise packages in the Premier League this season?

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With the first-ever PL winter break kicking in, now seemed like a good time to reflect on the first two thirds of the season and discuss which teams have surprised us so far, in a positive way.

Here’s a look at four teams who have exceeded expectations, so far.


Sheffield United: 6th place, 36 points

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Chris Wilder‘s Blades are the biggest surprise of the season in the Premier League. Period. Nobody expected this from the newly promoted side as they are in with a serious chance of qualifying for Europe. Their 3-5-2 formation with overlapping center backs and deep central midfielders bamboozles opponents and the Blades fans are in dreamland. With Wilder a lifelong fan, there is an incredible connection as he’s lead them from League One to the top six in the Premier League playing pretty much the same way and plenty of the players have been around for their journey back to the top-flight. Some of the signings they’ve made before and during the season have been masterstrokes and if European nights arrive in the Steel City next season. Bramall Lane will be rocking. Plenty of new boys are high in confidence early in the season then drop off but Sheffield United have been consistently excellent. They have only lost twice away from home all season long and those defeats came at Man City and Liverpool, the top two.


Leicester City: 3rd, 49 points

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The Foxes have struggled a little in recent weeks but Brendan Rodgers has built a superb young team which took the league by storm in the opening half of the campaign. They are out of the Premier League title race but for large spells of the season they looked like the only challengers to Liverpool. Still, with Jamie Vardy rolling back the years up top and the likes of Wilfried Ndidi, James Maddison and Youri Tielemans consistently brilliant in midfield, plus Ricardo Pereira and Caglar Soyuncu superb in defense, they are worthy of a top four finish. With 13 games to go they have a 12-point lead over fifth place. It would take a monumental collapse for Leicester to not be in the Champions League next season. This is all as a result of smart decision making at all levels at the club. Rodgers is a brilliant manager, they have a great recruitment team and youngsters are choosing to sign for Leicester because there is a clear vision, playing style and philosophy.


Newcastle United: 12th, 31 points

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Hands up who had Newcastle going down at the start of the season? Most of you will have your hands raised. With Rafael Benitez out and Steve Bruce in, Newcastle’s fans were furious and even the fact that Mike Ashley spent a bit of money on Joelinton and Allan Saint-Maximin didn’t calm things down. Bruce’s Newcastle have been awful to watch all season long and in terms of expected goals they would be rock bottom of the Premier League table. They’re aren’t and that is because this isn’t Bruce’s first rodeo and he has his team playing to its strengths as they’ve beaten Tottenham, Chelsea and Man United, plus drawn with Man City. They aren’t fun to watch but Newcastle sitting pretty in midtable at this point of the season, especially given all of the injuries they’ve had is a huge surprise.


Liverpool: 1st, 73 points

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Not so much a surprise but just utterly unbelievable. With 24 wins from their first 25 games, Jurgen Klopp‘s side are unbeaten and are on course to shatter every single Premier League record for title winners. They have Arsenal’s unbeaten record of an entire campaign without a defeat in sight, and they are 42 league games unbeaten, which is closing in on Arsenal’s 49-game unbeaten run. The reigning European champions were supposed to gain confidence from winning the UEFA Champions League last season and missing out on the title by just one point but this has been ridiculous. Yes, we shouldn’t be surprised Liverpool will win the Premier League title but we should be surprised, and amazed, with how they are doing it.

Honorable mention:
Wolves: Have taken the next step with Traore and Jimenez superb in attack and they are in the Europa League last 32 and in the top four battle.
Chelsea: Frank Lampard‘s youngsters started strongly but like Leicester they’ve hit a few speed bumps. In the UCL last 16 and in the top four. Very decent.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Graham Potter‘s side play wonderful soccer and even though they’ve been dragged into a relegation battle, the way they play under Potter is a joy to watch.

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.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

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.

Premier League January Transfer Window: When it closes, who’s in the mix, more

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The Premier League January Transfer Window has almost closed. Plenty of teams have already made moves on players (see a full list of roster moves here), but more will happen before close.

Below is all you need to know about the 2020 January transfer window deadline.

When is Transfer Deadline Day?

The January window slams shut on today at 6 p.m. ET (11 p.m. GMT). Coincidentally, that’s also the exact same time the windows in Germany, Spain, Italy, and France all close as well. The Portuguese window closes on February 2nd.

What teams and players are likely to be involved?

Many of the top Premier League teams have something to fight for and may look for help from around Europe and beyond. Manchester United and Arsenal both continue to need defensive help, with both teams relying on flawed players like Phil Jones and David Luiz for much of the season. Tottenham is looking for a Harry Kane replacement, while a number of teams near the bottom look for help in avoiding relegation. Chelsea is also looking for an option at striker with Tammy Abraham suffering an ankle injury, although so far they have come up empty.

Who has already brought in players?

Early in the transfer window, Liverpool snagged RB Leipzig midfielder Takumi Minamino, who has already made an impact in the Reds’ injury stricken midfield. Tottenham Hotspur recently brought in Benfica midfielder Gedson Fernandes, Watford snagged Udinese winger Ignacio Pussetto. Newcastle picked up a loan for former Spurs youth product Nabil Bentaleb from Schalke, and Aston Villa purchased Mbwana Samatta from Belgian club Genk.

Players around Europe like Emre Can, Thomas Lemar, and Krzysztof Piatek could be in high demand for Premier League teams looking for midfield or attacking reinforcements.

How to watch Transfer Deadline Day coverage?

Watch the Transfer Deadline Day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on January 31 live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com. There will be analysis on all of the late deals and how each Premier League club fared during the January window. Rebecca Lowe will host the show, with studio analysts Kyle Martino and Robbie Mustoe. Arlo White and Graeme Le Saux will also appear from their station in the UK, and Sky Sports chief reporter Bryan Swanson will be a guest on the show. There is also extensive coverage from Sky Sports.

What were the major 2019 January Deadline Day deals?

The winter transfer window last season was a flurry of activity. Newcastle secured Miguel Almiron from Atlanta United on this day last season, while Leicester City snagged Youri Tielemans on loan from Monaco, a deal which they later made permanent. Burnley grabbed Peter Crouch on loan from Stoke City before the storied striker in the summer. Fulham desperately tried to shore up its porous defense with a loan move for Havard Nordtveit from Hoffenheim, but it was too little too late.