The scary similarities between Leicester’s Champions League run and Chelsea’s success in 2012

Leicester enjoyed another historic night as they thrived as underdogs to beat Sevilla 2-0 on Tuesday night to seal their passage to a first-ever Champions League quarter-final, beating the Spanish side 3-2 on aggregate.

It was another special night under the King Power Stadium’s lights that supporters will never forget and means the Foxes have now won three consecutive games since Craig Shakespeare took charge of the team following Claudio Ranieri’s controversial sacking less than a month ago.

Despite being embroiled in a relegation dogfight for the past couple of months, Leicester now find themselves moving up the Premier League table and into the last-eight in Europe’s elite club competition.

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Their upturn in form and fortune is extraordinary but also seems eerily similar to what happened at Chelsea exactly five years ago, with the Blues going on to win their first ever Champions League title against Bayern in Munich against all odds.

When you compare their season with Chelsea’s 2011-12 campaign, you get the feeling we might be about to see Leicester do the same and write another chapter in the book of the biggest football shocks of all time…

Premier League

2011/12 Chelsea:

The Blues’ league form was far from good enough as they failed to challenge for the Premier League title, despite spending £60 million in the summer. They had finished second the season before but found themselves down in fifth when Roman Abramovich lost patience with Andre Villas-Boas, who was sacked in early March after 27 games. Assistant manager Roberto Di Matteo stepped up and took control until the end of the season, breathing some fresh life into the squad.

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2016/17 Leicester:

Leicester entered the season as reigning champions, and while few expected them to retain their crown this term, no one really expected to see them fighting for their Premier League status six months into the campaign. Just like Chelsea in 2011, the Foxes spent £60 million on summer signings but they haven’t taking the club to the levels expected. They dropped into the relegation zone on February 12 and Claudio Ranieri was eventually sacked 25 games into the season, with his assistant manager Craig Shakespeare taking control of the reigns. Shakespeare has won his first two league games since taking over and has moved them up three places in just two weeks.

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Champions League

2011/12 Chelsea:

Chelsea won their Group with relative ease, taking 11 points from their six games and winning all three of their home fixtures. Their biggest group stage win came over Belgian side Genk, who eventually finished bottom of the group. They drew Napoli in the Round of 16 and struggled to contain the Serie A side in the first leg away from home, losing 3-1 to leave their Champions League hopes hanging by a thread in what was AVB’s final European game in charge. Di Matteo was in charge for the second leg, in what was his third match in charge, as the Blues turned the tie on its head to win 4-1 at Stamford Bridge and advance 5-4 on aggregate. Chelsea drew Benfica in the last-eight and beat them 3-1 on aggregate before being matched up against Barcelona in the semi-finals, with very few people expecting them to get past the Spanish giants.

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But Chelsea were playing with the hunger and determination that had been missing for large parts of the season and ended up advancing 3-2 on aggregate. Fernando Torres’ stoppage time goal to secure their place in the final was his most iconic moment in a Chelsea shirt. The Blues’ chances were once again written off as they travelled to face Bayern Munich in their own home, the Allianz Arena for the final. But their character shone through as Didier Drogba’s 88th minute header forced the game into extra-time, before the Ivorian stepped up to score the winning penalty in the shootout to fire the Blues to a historic title.

2016/17 Leicester:

Leicester made the most of their first-ever Champions League campaign by winning their group with ease. The Foxes took 13 points from their six games, with their biggest victory also coming against a Belgian side in the form of Club Brugge, who finished bottom of the group. The Foxes drew Sevilla in the Round of 16 and failed to deal with their attacking threat in the first leg away from home, losing 2-1 on the night in what was Ranieri’s final game in charge. Shakespeare was in charge for the return leg, who just like Di Matteo was taking control of his third match as boss, with Leicester going on to win 2-0 and secure their passage into the quarter-finals.

The Foxes still have four games between them and the 2017 Champions League final in Cardiff but their campaign is scarily similar to Chelsea’s in 2011/12 and it would take a brave man to continue to write their chances off. Chelsea proved that defending deep and playing on the counter-attack can work against some of the world’s best teams and now Shakespeare will be looking to emulate Di Matteo’s success from five years ago with his rejuvenated group of Leicester players.

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Will Manchester City hang on to secure a top four finish in the Premier League?

Manchester City are enduring a rough patch of Premier League form with just one win from their last six domestic outings and with some key games coming up, are they at risk of finishing outside of the top four? Lewis Addley explores…

The Premier League title race looks all but out of Manchester City‘s reach now as they trail leaders Leicester City by a huge 15 points. Recent form has seen City pick up just four points in their last six games and they are struggling to hold onto fourth place, let alone challenge at the summit.

After another poor performance at the weekend in their 1-0 loss against rivals Manchester United the gap has narrowed even more. They are now in the uncomfortable position of having to look over their shoulders at the chasing pack of Champions League hunters – fuelling talk among fans and pundits alike that they could slip out of the top four.

Current Premier League top six standings

Current Premier League standings – top six 

As we can see City are just two points ahead of West Ham United and Manchester United as we enter the international break. Over the previous six games City have dropped from second place to fourth and the gap has closed between them and fifth place by six points.

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When looking at Manchester City’s remaining league fixtures, a fair argument could be made that they have to deal with one of the trickiest run-ins out of any club.

Manchester City's remaining fixtures and previous league results

Manchester City’s remaining Premier League fixtures and corresponding results

By using the theory of mirroring their previous results this season against the sides they face in the run-in, Manchester City would finish this season on 69 points, picking up six more wins and adding 18 points to their current tally of 51.

While we aren’t suggesting those results will mirror exactly, it does give some good grounding to provide a potential final league points tally for City.

Wedged within these fixtures are City’s two season-defining ties against Paris Saint-Germain in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, so the pressure will be on Manuel Pellegrini to ensure his squad priority is right when resting players for those games.

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So lets have a look at how this potential tally of 69 points compares to the number of points required to finish in the top four over the last five Premier League campaigns.

Points required to finish in the top four in the last five seasons

Points required to finish in the top four – last five seasons

As we can see, over the last three seasons 69 points would not have been enough to finish in the top four, but it would have secured Champions League football in the 2010/11 and 2011/2012 seasons.

City fans will be concerned about their league position as they will not want to be without Champions League football next season, especially with the imminent arrival of new boss Pep Guardiola. Playing in Europe’s top competition can certainly influence potential transfers and with a squad overhaul expected to take place, Guardiola will want to be able to lure some of the world’s top talents to the Etihad Stadium.

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It’s now time for the current City squad to step up and prove any doubters wrong by winning as many of their remaining fixtures as possible to ensure they finish in the top four. They do also have the potential pathway into the Champions League by winning the competition this term as they head towards that huge quarterfinal tie against PSG.

City have finished in the top three of the Premier League in each of the past five seasons and lifted the title at the end of the 2011/12 and 2013/14 campaigns.

Do you think Manchester City will finish in the top four this season?

Spurs make contact with PSG over World Cup finalist

Tottenham Hotspur have made contact with Paris Saint Germain over a potential move for World Cup finalist Ezequiel Lavezzi according to talkSPORT.

Lavezzi could make way for the potential signing of Angel Di Maria from Manchester United, who has been on PSG’s radar for the last couple of years.

Spurs head coach, Mauricio Pochettino, is expected to add to his forward line and Lavezzi is an ideal serviceman for any striker.

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The Argentine winger has netted nine times this season in 45 appearances and his experience could play a pivotal role to help Spurs break back into the Champions League for the first time since 2011.

Lavezzi could come in as a cheap option as he has just one year remaining on his current contract. Transfermarkt.co.uk value the winger at £14 million.

The 30 year old hasn’t quite hit the high levels which earned him a move from Napoli to PSG in 2012 and it seems now would be a good time for him to move on.

Will Spurs sign Lavezzi and do they need him?

Arsenal set to raid FC Barcelona for second successive summer

Arsenal could sign FC Barcelona‘s Pedro Rodriguez for as little as £10 million, according to Fichajes.net.

Last summer’s marquee signing of Alexis Sanchez has proved to be great business by Arsene Wenger and it looks as if he could be set to raid the Catalans for a second pre season in succession.

Pedro has seen his game time limited this season and a number of clubs are interested in signing the Spanish World Cup winner, but he could favour a move to link up with former teammate Sanchez.

The 27-year-old cannot be blamed for wanting a new challenge as he has played second fiddle to Barca’s deadly trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.

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At just £10 million, Pedro would be an absolute bargain for any potential new club and he will certainly be looking to move somewhere where he is guaranteed playing time and Champions League football.

The skilful winger boasts an impressive trophy cabinet, with the likes of the World Cup and Champions League winners medals, and he has a wealth of experience.

In 2010 he scored Barca’s opener against Manchester United in the Champions League final at Wembley and is still just as sharp and calm in front of goal.

Pedro has scored six times this season in 34 league appearances, 20 of which are from the bench and it looks likely that he will be moving on this summer for a new challenge at a cut-price.

Will Pedro leave FC Barcelona this summer and is Arsenal a possible destination?

Wenger delivers worrying news for Arsenal fans ahead of United clash

Arsene Wenger has revealed worrying news for Arsenal fans if his side are beaten to third place in the Premier League by rivals Manchester United this season.

Wenger feels his side could struggle to sign new players in the summer if they come fourth once again.

This has added pressure to their now ‘showdown’ clash on Sunday as the sides go head-to-head at Old Trafford.

Wenger has admitted that it makes bringing in star signings more difficult and avoiding the qualifying rounds for the Champions League is a ‘must’.

“It’s very important [we avoid a Champions League qualifier], not to have that stress over your head from the first day when you start again is vital,” he is quoted as saying in the Daily Express.

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“Finishing fourth can make it more difficult to bring players in. They think most of the time that you will play in the Champions League but you are not sure.

“We have to convince them by saying that statistically we have always progressed.”

Arsenal have finished in fourth in six of their last ten seasons and with second place looking as good as Manchester City’s, United and Arsenal will both be gunning for third with two weeks to go.

Does finishing fourth make signing top players harder? How important is it that Arsenal finish third?

United CLOSE on £44m-rated South American goal-machine

Manchester United are closing in on Paris Saint Germain’s Edinson Cavani, who is expected to leave the French champions this summer, according to The Express.

Cavani has been forced to play as a wide-man for PSG, second fiddle to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and is looking to get back to his preferred role as an out-and-out striker even if that means he has to move clubs.

The Uruguayan goal-machine was reportedly close to a summer move to Juventus, but it seems the Italian giants are unwilling to meet his hefty wage demands.

It is understood that Cavani will demand a £5.75 million-a-year salary and Louis Van Gaal’s side are more than capable of giving the striker what he wants.

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United flop, Radamel Falcao, is expected to move on this summer and his departure will free up a huge £265,000-a-week in wages for new faces at the club, and Cavani could be a straight swap.

United have been linked with a number of top goalscorers already ahead of this summer transfer window but Cavani could be the most likely to make the move to Old Trafford.

The 28-year-old is rated at £44 million by transfermarkt.co.uk and it is no surprise given his goal output. He has netted a staggering 193 club career goals in 347 appearances. His experience of playing at the top level, including in the Champions League, makes him an ideal candidate for United ahead of their summer rebuild.

Is Edinson Cavani the goalscorer Manchester United need?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Crystal Palace vs Manchester United

CompetitionPremier League – Crystal Palace vs. Manchester United 

VenueSelhurst Park – Saturday, May 9 – 17:30 BST (12:30 ET)

Match OddsCrystal Palace 16/5 – Draw 5/2 – Manchester United 17/20

Match Preview

Crystal Palace host Manchester United on Saturday evening as the Premier League season is drawing to a close. Palace have the chance of making United’s chase for Champions League football come under pressure if they can take something from this tie.

Alan Pardew‘s side have hit a sticky patch after losing three on the bounce. They had been on a four game winning streak but have been bought back down to earth and look likely to finish mid-table.

Last weekends loss didn’t come as too much of a surprise as they couldn’t halt Chelsea’s bid to become champions but their performance was spirited and they made it very difficult for their London rivals.

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Back at Selhurst Park it is a totally different type of game. Palace have made it difficult for sides to come away with all three points all season and have beaten some of the top sides in the league.

United won the reverse fixture and haven’t lost to Palace since 2011. Louis Van Gaal‘s side need to ensure they avoid defeat here with Liverpool chasing them down for the all important fourth place.

United come into the game off the back of last weekend’s loss at home to West Bromwich Albion. It was a difficult one for the Old Trafford faithful to swallow but things are looking up for next season despite the fact they have lost their last three on the bounce.

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Van Gaal has already started the summer rejig of his squad with the signing of Memphis Depay and he must make sure they finish in the top four to ensure he can attract the biggest names for next season.

This should be an interesting tie packed with action and it could play a pivotal role into how the Premier League table ends up.

Team News

Crystal Palace have three injury concerns. Former Manchester United player Frazier Campbell, Marouane Chamakh and Jerome Thomas are sidelined. Pardew will be relying on his speedsters, Dwight Gayle and Yannick Bolasie, to provide and entertain as usual.

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Manchester United’s injury woes continue as six could be set to miss out. Van Gaal is facing the prospect of playing this one five of his defenders absent. Marcos Rojo, Rafael, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans and Michael Carrick are all unavailable.

Key Points

Crystal Palace’s last five: W/W/L/L/L

Manchester United’s last five: W/W/L/L/L

Key Stat: Defensive woes – Louis Van Gaal only has one fully fit defender ahead of this tie in the shape of Phil Jones and his side could be easily exposed given Palace’s attacking talent.

Key Player: Yannick Bolasie – The Congolese winger will be looking to continue to impress and finish his great season on a high.
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Score Prediction

Crystal Palace 2-2 Manchester United – A real end-to-end affair with Palace to upset United and pile the pressure on the Red Devils in their final two games.

How important is James Milner to Manchester City?

There has been much talk of whether or not James Milner will get a new Manchester City contract and Lewis Addley explores his importance to the side…

James Milner has been enjoying some of the best form of his career and certainly his best performances for Manchester City in recent times.

Milner has featured 22 times in the Premier League so far this season and as well as scoring the important equalising goal against Hull City two weeks ago, he also netted in the 4-1 win at Stoke. He now has five goals in all competitions, including one in the Champions League.

His contract is due to expire at the end of this season and it isn’t clear yet whether or not it will be renewed, though Manuel Pellegrini has been quick to praise the 29-year-old midfielder already this season.

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“James is a very important player for our team. Knowing the way he thinks we will see the same Milner with a contract or without a contract. He is a great professional,” the City boss said.

The former Aston Villa and Newcastle man is a doubt for Manchester City’s game against the Magpies this weekend as well as their Champions League tie against Barcelona next Tuesday, and he will be missed in both of those games.

Milner is a tremendous utility player and can play as a right-back as well as numerous midfield positions. He can comfortably play on either wing, or even as the playmaker in behind the striker as he did so effectively at Stoke in the Citizens’ last game.

Milner covered more ground than any other player this season during that game as he ran an incredible 13.56km over the course of 90 minutes, deservedly picking up a goal and an assist for his efforts.

Numerous Premier League clubs would be interested in signing James Milner if he is to leave City in the summer and it would be a loss to the reigning champions as he is one of their most effective midfielders.

James Milner's Premier League stats compared to Manchester City's other attacking midfielders (stats via Squawka)

James Milner’s Premier League stats compared to Manchester City’s other attacking midfielders (stats via Squawka)

Pellegrini has opted to play Milner in a number of big games already this season and needs the England international back to fitness as they face the difficult task of clawing back the difference in the race for the title.

Milner will be required even more so next season as City will lose Frank Lampard this summer as he is set to make his MLS move to New York City FC in July, when his contract expires.

The performances of Milner have certainly shown his desire to earn a new contract and he has a lot to offer the City side. His tenacity and desire to work hard for his team makes Milner one of the most unsung heroes in this Manchester City side and they would likely struggle without him.

Is Milner too important for Manchester City to lose this summer?