Dean Smith will hope to utilise the experience of former Orlando City midfielder Junior Orso when his new team Charlotte FC host them in MLS on Thursday.

Charlotte head coach Smith says the influence of Orso, who spent four seasons with Orlando, could benefit the home side at Bank of America Stadium.

"It helps," Smith said of Orso's knowledge. "Little insights of information that can help.

"The fact that Junior will know a lot about them will certainly help us as well."

The Crown are fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, too, owing to their remarkable defence that has helped them to ninth in the Supporter's Shield rankings.

"Defense wins championships,” said Brandt Bronico, reflecting on the team's success this season. "If you can get the defense right, you can [then] start creating and having fun on the offensive end.

"The collective defense-first mindset is probably the most important thing in the locker room."

Orlando are struggling at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, sitting just one point ahead of New England Revolution, who still have a game in hand.

Oscar Pareja's side were beaten 3-1 by Los Angeles FC last time out, extending their winless streak to four games.

The Orlando head coach acknowledged improvements are needed.

"We need to have a deeper analysis about what's happening on the pitch," Pareja said.

"But once again, it's not enough at this point. We need to win games and that's not happening."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Charlotte FC – Kristijan Kahlina

Charlotte have kept clean sheets in five straight home matches for the first time in club history, thanks to the efforts of goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina.

With a shutout against Orlando, Charlotte would become the sixth team in MLS history to keep six straight home clean sheets within a single season, equaling the second-longest run in league history.

Orlando City – Nicolas Lodeiro

Nicolas Lodeiro completed 107 of 115 pass attempts on Saturday against LAFC, a new career high in his 208th regular-season match after never completing more than 88 passes in a match before.

It was the most passes ever completed by an Orlando player in an MLS match, though Lodeiro may not have as much control for this meeting.

MATCH PREDICTION – CHARLOTTE FC WIN

The pre-match predictions fall in the favour of the home side as Charlotte appear the most likely victors on Thursday.

Charlotte FC went unbeaten in all three meetings with Orlando in all competitions last season (W2 D1), after Orlando won both matches in 2022.

Expect another nervy encounter, however, as all five matches between this pair have been decided by one goal or drawn.

Yet the hosts will be confident as Charlotte have lost only one of their last 19 regular-season home matches, dating back to the beginning of June 2023 (W9 D9).

Only last season's MLS Cup finalists Los Angeles FC (40) and Columbus Crew (38) have earned more points at home than Charlotte (36) over that span, and Orlando are struggling heading into this one.

The visitors have lost eight matches in the 2024 season, one more than they had all of last year.

Yet not all hope is lost given the Lions have lost only one of their last six away from home (W3 D2).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Charlotte FC – 42.8%

Orlando City – 30.5%

Draw – 26.7%

Charlotte FC head coach Dean Smith says his team will continue to work on their lack of goal threat as they prepare to travel to New York Red Bulls on Wednesday.

Charlotte sit seventh in the Eastern Conference, just one point behind the Red Bulls after going unbeaten in their last five matches.

However, their last two outings have finished 0-0 against LA Galaxy and Philadelphia Union as they managed just six shots on target combined in those games.

Asked how he approaches a situation like that, Smith said: "We talk openly, review all the games and the fact is that we probably haven't worked the goalkeeper enough.

"We've spoke about that and what we feel we can do to improve that. We've had chances, and we probably haven't done as well as we could do with those, so that's something we'll continue to work on

"It's going to be a tough game [against the Red Bulls] because they're a tough team."

The Red Bulls are coming off a 10-day break after their derby defeat to New York City FC on May 19, and sit fifth in the table.

Head coach Sandro Schwarz said: "The performance [against NYCFC] wasn't the best, and we weren't able to create chances to score and to get three points.

"We want more, and we have to improve a lot, but this is normal. We need time, but the mentality, the behaviour, they adapt very quick and very well.

"We were disappointed to lose the derby game, but that happens. Heads up, we have to come back stronger and take the next opportunity."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

New York Red Bulls – Cameron Harper

Harper scored New York's lone goal in their last match, his third straight match with a goal. He is the first Red Bulls player to score in three straight regular-season matches since Patryk Klimala in 2021, and the last Red Bulls player to score in four straight league games was Bradley Wright-Phillips in July-August 2017.

Charlotte – Kristijan Kahlina

Charlotte have kept clean sheets in five consecutive regular-season matches, the only team to do so in MLS this season. The only team since 2008 to keep a clean sheet in six straight games within a single regular season was New York City FC in May 2022, and Kahlina will be looking to equal that record.

MATCH PREDICTION: NEW YORK RED BULLS WIN

The Red Bulls have lost only one of their six all-time meetings with Charlotte in all competitions, a 2-0 road defeat in June 2022. New York have won three of their four home matches against Charlotte (D1), scoring multiple goals in each match, including a 5-2 win in last year's playoffs.

The Red Bulls are unbeaten in eight straight home matches dating back to last season (W5 D3, incl. playoffs). New York have not had a longer home unbeaten run in MLS play since a nine-match run from August 2018 to March 2019.

Meanwhile, Charlotte won 1-0 at Chicago in their last away match after a seven-match winless run on the road in all competitions. Charlotte have never recorded back-to-back away wins in all competitions before.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

New York Red Bulls – 53%

Draw – 23.9%

Charlotte – 23.1%

Dean Smith is looking for his Charlotte FC side to build upon their 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire when they host the LA Galaxy this weekend.

Charlotte made it three wins in a row as they narrowly beat the Fire during midweek thanks to Ashley Westwood's 60th-minute winner.

The three-match win streak has taken Charlotte all the way up to fifth in the Eastern Conference, and though Smith was not enthralled by the manner of the victory over Chicago, he appreciated his side's mindset.

"I saw the mentality, but I didn’t see a game of football that I liked. It certainly won’t make the highlight reel," Smith told reporters.

"It wasn't a thriller of any sort. It was an untidy game from both teams but we showed real good mentality to limit them to few chances, and we took the one we had from a set piece."

The Galaxy, meanwhile, drew 2-2 at Minnesota United on Wednesday, leaving them fifth in the Western Conference and four points off leaders Real Salt Lake.

Minnesota equalised with just 10 minutes to play, but Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney still thought it was a solid point for his side.

"We've got to try to take this point and start to heal and start to recover and move on to the next one," Vanney said.

"[It is a] good, hard-earned point at the end of the day even though there was a chance for us to get three there at the tail end."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Charlotte FC – Ashley Westwood

Westwood scored the lone goal in Charlotte’s win over Chicago on Wednesday at the hour mark. Nine of Charlotte's 11 goals since March 23 have been scored after half-time, and Westwood will be hoping to spur his side on once more this Saturday by finding the net again.

LA Galaxy – Riqui Puig

Puig assisted both of the Galaxy's goals against Minnesota on Wednesday after also recording assists on both Galaxy goals on Saturday against Salt Lake. Puig is the first Galaxy player to record multiple assists in consecutive matches since Romain Alessandrini in 2018, and he will hope to make it three such games in a row this weekend.

MATCH PREDICTION – CHARLOTTE WIN

Charlotte and the Galaxy have each recorded a 1-0 away win against the other. Both goals were scored after the 70th minute.

The Galaxy have drawn each of their last three matches with the last two ending 2-2. In their last 22 matches, the Galaxy have scored two or more goals 15 times and allowed two or more goals 17 times.

Charlotte have won three straight matches, keeping clean sheets in all three. This is the first time Charlotte have kept clean sheets in three straight matches in club history, and with home advantage this weekend, they look the favourites to pick up the three points on Saturday.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Charlotte: 47.3%

Galaxy: 25.8%

Draw: 26.9%

Charlotte FC boss Dean Smith believes “mentality” is the main issue for sides daunted by away trips.

Smith takes his team to face the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, with Charlotte having taken just one point from their five away games in MLS so far this season.

But Smith struggles to see why there is such a difference in confidence between home and away fixtures.

“Mentality,” said Smith when asked what the issue was.

“I believe some people, before they even leave, have accepted it’s going to be tougher. The only reason it’s tougher is because that’s in your head. Yes, you’ve got to travel, you haven’t got home fans or home advantage, but the pitches are still the same size, you’ve still got to get into your box and score a goal, and they’ve got to get in yours and you’ve got to defend your box.

“I don’t think there’s too much in it other than you have your fans behind you and home comforts. We should have had more points on the road, our performances merited more points but we’ve not taken chances on the road so far.”

Charlotte have won their last two games, both at home, while the Fire are on a five-game winless run.

“I’ve just been watching clips of them. It’s going to be a tough game, as everyone keeps telling me, it’s tough on the road,” Smith said.

“We’ll try to change that. They got beat at the weekend so it’s a bit of a tough time for them but we have to concentrate on ourselves.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Chicago Fire – Hugo Cuypers

The Fire have failed to score in three straight regular-season home games for the third time in club history. Cuypers is their top scorer, with three goals this term, and the onus will be on him to get firing again.

Charlotte FC – Patrick Agyemang

Patrick Agyemang scored Charlotte’s winner against Nashville SC last time out, making him the team’s leading scorer in MLS in 2024, with three goals to his name.

MATCH PREDICTION: CHICAGO WIN

While Chicago are made the favourites by Opta’s model, Charlotte have recorded back-to-back shutout wins. Charlotte have never won three straight regular-season matches without conceding a goal, something no team has managed to do in MLS in 2024.

Chicago are winless in five straight games and has just 10 points through their first 12 this season (W2 D4 L6). The Fire have had fewer points at this stage of a season only once before, taking nine points through 12 matches in 2020.

Charlotte have won three straight matches against the Fire after Chicago won the first meeting, 3-2. Charlotte have never won four straight meetings with a single opponent, though.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Chicago Fire – 41.1%

Charlotte – 29.9%

Draw – 29%

Nick Cushing is pushing for more as New York City bid for a third successive victory against Charlotte FC at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. 

NYCFC are eighth in the Eastern Conference standings after back-to-back 2-0 home wins over the New England Revolution and D.C. United, having gone four unbeaten (two wins, two draws).

Their consecutive wins have come after a run of just two victories in their previous 10 (three draws, five losses), but Cushing does not want his team to stop there.

"I think the three-game run is something that we have a huge desire to achieve," Cushing said.

"I said after the game in the locker room, it has been a long time since we've gone back-to-back. It's been too long, really, since we went back-to-back, so it's good to enjoy that after the game.

"Now we have the opportunity to do a three-game run. We have to make sure we do that before we think about anything else."

Charlotte have gone the opposite way in recent weeks, losing two of their last three games to leave them behind New York on goal difference.

Former Aston Villa boss Dean Smith acknowledges they need to show more in the forward areas after averaging just one goal per game in 2024. 

"That's certainly an area where we need to be better, I think we all know that. We've been working on it for the last three or four weeks," Smith said.

"I think defensively we've been really solid. In terms of our creativity, we've had some big chances that we haven't taken. 

"Last week [in a 3-0 loss to Minnesota United] there were some moments we didn't take as well, technically we just failed on that."

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

New York City – Santiago Rodriguez 

Rodriguez recorded a goal and an assist in NYCFC's win over D.C. last week and now has four goals and one assist this season, with all of those involvements coming at home. 

Since the start of last season, 14 (seven goals, seven assists) of Rodriguez's 16 goal contributions in regular-season matches have come at home.

Charlotte FC – Ashley Westwood

Charlotte have failed to score in two of their last three games, and a lack of creativity has been a theme of their campaign to date.

Captain Westwood leads all Charlotte players for chances created this season, with 13, and he could be key if they are to hit the goal trail. 

MATCH PREDICTION – NEW YORK CITY WIN

Charlotte are unbeaten in five all-time meetings with New York (four wins, one draw), including a 1-0 win over them in the teams' season opener on February 24.

The Crown are the only team NYCFC have faced more than once in MLS play and never defeated, but that may just change this week.

New York have won back-to-back matches to nil, a major defensive upturn after they managed just one clean sheet in their previous 10. Charlotte, meanwhile, have only earned one point from four road games in MLS this year, losing their last three in a row. 

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

New York City – 51.8%

Charlotte FC – 21.1%

Draw – 27.1%

Eric Ramsay has left Manchester United to join Minnesota United and become the youngest head coach in Major League Soccer history.

The 32-year-old Welshman, who was a first-team coach under Erik ten Hag at Old Trafford, is the latest British coach to cross the Atlantic, joining the likes of Phil Neville and Dean Smith.

In a statement issued by Minnesota United, Ramsay said: “I’m incredibly excited to be joining a club with such a strong football culture, a fanatic fan-base and a brilliant infrastructure.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of the club’s staff throughout the process and you can’t help but feel everyone’s passion for moving the club forward.”

Ramsay joined Manchester United as a coach under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in 2021 and also served as an assistant coach to the Welsh national team in 2023.

He started his career working with junior levels at Swansea and also acted as interim head coach at his home-town club Shrewsbury before moving to work with the Chelsea Under-23s.

Ramsay became the youngest British coach to earn his UEFA Pro Licence in 2019.

Minnesota’s Chief Soccer Officer Khaled El-Ahmad said: “After an extensive search that included dozens of impressive domestic and international candidates, we are confident that Eric Ramsay is the best choice to lead our club.

“His experience working with top-level players, coaches, and sporting staff at both the club and international level – as well as his alignment in playing style and development philosophy – all fit with the vision we have for the future of MNUFC.”

Dean Smith wants to defy the doubters after rejecting opportunities to coach in the Championship to start a new chapter with ambitious Major League Soccer side Charlotte FC.

The 52-year-old returned to management in December, having just fallen short in his attempt to keep Leicester up during a short spell in the hot seat at the end of last season.

Smith takes charge of his first competitive match since the Foxes’ final Premier League game when Charlotte host New York City FC in their MLS opener this weekend.

The former Aston Villa boss beat England great Frank Lampard to the job and more than 60,000 will be at Bank of America Stadium for his first game in the dugout.

“I’d spoken to a few clubs in the UK, mainly Championship clubs,” Smith told the PA news agency.

“None of them felt quite right for me, so it was all about what the next opportunity was going to be.

“When this came about and I got asked if I wanted to join in the process, I just thought it’d be a challenge, it’d be exciting.

“It would get the juices flowing again, so to speak, because it’s something that I’ve not done before, never been out of the UK to coach and I thought it’d be really good challenge.”

 

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Smith joins a club entering their third MLS season, with former Premier League players Ashley Westwood and Scott Arfield among those in Charlotte’s squad.

Leicester fan favourite Christian Fuchs serves as one of his assistants, having retired in North Carolina and joined the coaching staff after skippering the team during their first campaign.

Smith joins them in Charlotte with a determination to help the team grow and improve on last season’s wildcard defeat at the start of the MLS play-offs.

“I think one of my drivers has always been to prove people wrong and try and get to that next level all the time,” the former Norwich, Brentford and Walsall manager said.

“I was fortunate enough to coach Brentford and build a team that Thomas (Frank) eventually took over and ended up getting into the Premier League.

“But also taking Aston Villa to the Premier League, I’m really proud of that because in 2010, 2011, I was coaching at Walsall, the under-14s, and my daughter was sitting on the side of the pitch doing her homework.

“So, you know, it’s been hard work to get where I am.”

Smith’s determination brings hope to Charlotte, who still have room to sprinkle stardust on their side by signing a marquee player over the coming months.

Put to Smith that Jack Grealish, his skipper at Villa, could do with a few starts right now, he laughed and said: “Yeah, I still speak to Jack very regularly.

“He’s just coming back from an injury. But he’s not done bad already at Manchester City and he’ll continue to do so, and England in the Euros.

“But, yes, we’re looking to add some quality into the squad. When I looked at the squad during this process, I just felt that there were areas that we could improve on.”

Boss Dean Smith admits Leicester are ‘in the last chance saloon’ in their bid to ensure Premier League survival.

The Foxes go to Newcastle on Monday three points from safety with two games left.

Everton’s 1-1 draw at Wolves on Saturday means the fight for survival will go to the final day, regardless of the result at St James’ Park.

Victory will take the Foxes out of the drop zone and above the Toffees on goal difference and Smith is aware of the magnitude of the game.

“We are pretty much in the last chance saloon with a game against Newcastle,” he said, with the Foxes hosting West Ham on the last day on Sunday.

“Disappointment and frustration are the two words I’d say I’ve seen. But we are running out of games to put that right and the players know that.

“When I came in here for the last eight games, if someone had said to me ‘If you win at home the last game of the season (to survive), would you take it?’ I probably would have.

“Hopefully we can get there but we have to get a performance and a result against Newcastle.

“There are things we’ve looked at, things we’ve done. When there is no pressure on the ball, you don’t push up like we did for the first goal against Liverpool.

“There’s an awful lot we’ve done in the classroom in terms of video analysis and we’ve done some stuff on the pitch as well.

“I’ve always said to the players that mistakes are going to happen, from both teams. People are going to make mistakes and you need a helping hand from your team-mate once you make that mistake.

“We probably haven’t been in the positions to help each other out as much as we would like.”

The Magpies need a point to wrap up Champions League qualification while Leicester know two wins from their final two games will seal survival, barring a huge goal difference swing in Everton’s favour.

Smith added: “It’s just a big game. We know what’s at the end of it. I don’t think there’s anyone here who’s not aware of that so our focus is to go there and put in as good a performance as we can.”

Dean Smith defended his under-fire Leicester players as they fight for their Premier League lives.

The Foxes go to Newcastle on Monday knowing their top-flight future hangs in the balance as they sit two points from safety with two games left.

If Everton win at Wolves and Nottingham Forest avoid defeat against Arsenal over the weekend Leicester will need to win at St James’ Park or they will go down.

The squad – with one win in their last 14 games – has been accused of lacking fight in their relegation battle but Smith has given them his support.

“I don’t need to pay homage to the players, I’ve inherited a squad and not brought any of them in,” said the boss, who saw the Foxes limply lose 3-0 to Liverpool on Monday.

“I can openly criticise them if I need to, I don’t think I need to and I choose not to because the work ethic I see is there.

“The numbers I get from my performance department prove to me it’s there. The thing which is missing is keeping clean sheets and making fewer mistakes in the defensive third.

“It’s out of our hands because if other teams get the results there’s nothing we can do. We just have to concentrate on Newcastle and get the win.

“If we get the performance we are capable of and minimise mistakes, not a problem.

“We are in a position we don’t want to be in. Our job is to get out of it. Our job hasn’t changed from eight games (when he came in) to two games.

“If you look at it realistically it was going to be tough to get points from Manchester City and Liverpool. Other games we would have expected to get points.”

Kelechi Iheanacho (groin) and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (ankle) are expected to resume training on Saturday after missing the Liverpool defeat while Caglar Soyuncu (hamstring) and Danny Ward (dislocated finger) remain out.

It is a fourth straight Monday game – meaning Leicester will know all the results before they play – but Smith insisted other scorelines will not impact his approach.

He added: “We’re preparing for Newcastle now, I don’t want to suddenly change tactics with what we’ve been working on for four or five days.”

Leicester boss Dean Smith knows that his side’s superior goal difference could be key in the Premier League relegation battle.

The Foxes are level on points with both Nottingham Forest and Leeds going into this weekend’s round of fixtures, but lie in 16th owing to their better record.

In a six-team tussle to stay up, which also includes Southampton, Everton and West Ham, Smith knows how crucial it could be.

“We can only take one game at a time and see where that leaves us, the draw against Everton we would like to have had a win and so would Everton, but it moved us up the table two places such is our goal difference,” Smith said ahead of Monday’s visit to Fulham.

“It probably gives us a head start on the rest of the teams down there. But we have to have a better performance than we did Monday defensively and if we do that we can go and get a result.”

The Foxes are currently on a run of playing on three successive Mondays, which has left Smith, who is on a short-term SOS mission to keep the Foxes up, playing catch-up.

“I am not enjoying the weekends because all I am doing is coaching and watching the results come in,” he said. “I would much rather be playing ourselves and watching other results after that.

“It’s all consuming, but we knew it would be, seven weeks, eight games, but we are really enjoying it and we believe we are getting a response from the players.”

Leicester boss Dean Smith hopes Jamie Vardy can fire his side to Premier League safety after the veteran’s recent revival.

Vardy has scored in the last two games to help move the Foxes out of the bottom three having previously gone 19 games without a goal.

Smith, who is on a short-term SOS mission at the King Power Stadium to keep Leicester up, says the 36-year-old is “firing” ahead of the crunch run-in.

“People will have seen in his last few performances the hunger and desire he has got, the work rate, the fact his legs are still there and his brains are definitely still there,” Smith said ahead of Monday’s trip to Fulham.

“We are really pleased that he is back scoring goals for us. He has got his first away goal at Leeds and his first home one on Monday (against Everton), we are really pleased he is in a good place at the moment.

“He knows as well as anyone as a striker with his record he will be judged on goals. He probably hasn’t had the pitch time to earn the goals or chances but he has created a penalty for us against Wolves. He has come on and scored against Leeds and scored a goal on Monday.

“He is in a good vein of form at the moment, which is what we need with only four games to go.

“I don’t think we have had to rebuild his confidence, we have had to play more to his strengths. We know he is an intelligent player with his runs, but he needs the ball to go into the right areas with his runs.

“We have to have a supply line to him and he has to make the runs as well.”

Leicester could have Ricardo Pereira back after a hamstring injury, while there is also good news over Kelechi Iheancho (groin) and Jonny Evans (virus).

“Ricky Pereira has been training with us, he has only been doing part of the session,” Smith said.

“He will be training with us on Saturday and Sunday so that will be a boost to the squad to have him.

“Ricky is due to train with us on Saturday. He part trained yesterday and if he came through Saturday, I am sure he would put himself forward for selection on Monday.

“Kels has responded to the treatment so won’t be back for Monday, but we may get him back for the last two games which we weren’t hopeful of when he first sustained the injury.

“Jonny is back training. He has trained the last couple of days and trained really well, so it is nice to get that experienced head around.

“Even just to have him on the training ground, there is so much the other lads can pick up from him with his knowledge and his experience. It’s great to have him back.”

Leicester boss Dean Smith sees similarities between James Maddison and Jack Grealish as the Foxes midfielder looks to emulate the former Aston Villa man’s relegation-fighting heroics.

Smith’s side are just a point from the Premier League safety line ahead of Monday’s crucial visit of Everton, who head into the encounter one point and one place worse off.

They know just a draw will lift them out of the bottom three on goal difference after Nottingham Forest’s late 2-1 defeat at Brentford on Saturday.

Manchester City’s Grealish played a key role in Villa’s escape from relegation under Smith in 2019-20 – they survived after being four points from safety with three games left – and Smith sees the similarities with Maddison.

“I think they are different types of players but similar characters, in all honesty. Both know that they’ve got ability and both want to push themselves to become the best,” he said.

“I think, when you’ve got players that have that personality and character, they push you as coaches and you want to go and help them become better players. James seems to have that as well.

“He’s always looking to see what he can do better. He’s really engaging in the meetings we have and tactical meetings and very vocal as well. I can see that similarity (with Grealish) of wanting to push himself.

“He wants to talk tactics with you, and football. He’s a football nut, a bit like Jack was as well.”

Maddison, linked with Newcastle, has a year left on his contract while eight players – including Youri Tielemans and Jonny Evans – have deals which expire this summer.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding their futures, though, Smith believes the squad remain committed to the survival fight.

“I’m getting that feeling from all the players,” he said. “They’re all in and they’ve committed to the football club, whether their contract is up at the end of the season or not.

“I’ve already said before, that I don’t know how many are up or who isn’t. I can just see a buy-in from what they’re doing in training and what they’re saying in the meetings.

“Contracts are not my department. My remit is to come in and keep the team in the Premier League, so that’s what I’m focused on.”

James Maddison knows Leicester City's meeting with Everton could be a defining moment in the battle to avoid relegation from the Premier League, describing the six-pointer as "massive".

Leicester and Everton are both in the relegation zone ahead of Monday's clash at the King Power Stadium, separated by just one point as they desperately scrap for survival.

The Foxes have experienced something of an upturn since Dean Smith took charge, beating Wolves and rescuing a 1-1 draw against fellow strugglers Leeds United in their last two games.

With just five matches remaining for the Foxes to save their season, Maddison hopes Smith's impact will prove decisive.

"It's definitely given us a lift," Maddison said of Smith's arrival. "When you have a new manager, it's a new voice, new messages and so everyone's on it.

"There has been a real uplift in confidence and belief and hopefully that will leave us in good stead so we can produce another positive performance and result against Everton.

"We're all fighting and battling for Premier League safety. We all know their manager and what type of characteristics he has, he'll be looking for a reaction and getting them going. 

"Make no mistake about it, this is a massive game – there's no point in dressing it up as anything else."

Everton are growing desperate following Thursday's dismal 4-1 defeat against Newcastle United, with the Toffees still to face Brighton and Hove Albion and Manchester City in a difficult run-in. 

Though the Toffees are winless in six games, Sean Dyche still believes in their survival prospects – though he accepts they need to improve quickly.

"I think we can do it," he said. "It is about us. 

"We have to correct the mistakes we have made in the last few weeks. We can all talk the talk, but it is about walking the walk."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Leicester City – Jamie Vardy

Vardy ended his 20-game Premier League goal drought last time out, netting a crucial equaliser against Leicester's fellow relegation candidates Leeds.

Having scored six goals in his first nine league games against Everton, Vardy has failed to net in his last four against them. If he can end that run on Monday, it could prove crucial in their battle to survive.

Everton – Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Everton are winless in their last 12 Premier League away games (D5 L7), failing to score on nine separate occasions during that run.

Having endured another injury-hit campaign, Calvert-Lewin last found the net in a Premier League fixture against Crystal Palace in October. Dyche's men need him to find form in the coming weeks.

 

MATCH PREDICTION – LEICESTER CITY WIN

Having won on their last two Premier League trips to Leicester, Everton are looking to post three successive away wins against the Foxes for the first time in their history.

However, a run of 12 Premier League away games without a win has done nothing to alleviate the Toffees' relegation fears. Since beating Brighton in August 2021, they have won just two of their 33 away league matches (D10 L21).

Leicester boss Smith, meanwhile, has won four and lost none of his six previous Premier League meetings with Everton, winning three of his four at home against the Toffees.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY 

Leicester City - 52.1 per cent

Everton - 21.4 per cent

Draw - 26.5 per cent

Leicester City have confirmed Dean Smith as the club's new manager on a short-term deal through to the end of the season.

The Englishman, who was previously in charge of Aston Villa and Norwich City, arrives at the King Power Stadium as an interim successor to Brendan Rodgers.

With the Foxes mired in a Premier League relegation battle, his job will be to ensure their top-flight survival with just eight games left to play.

Smith will be joined by his former Villa assistant John Terry and fellow ex-Canaries coach Craig Shakespeare, who previously served as manager himself with Leicester following Claudio Ranieri's exit in 2017.

"I'm really happy to have the opportunity to lead the team during these final weeks of the season," Smith told the club's website.

"The challenge in front of us is clear, but it's one myself and my coaching team have experienced before and, with the quality in this squad and the number of games remaining, it's very much achievable."

Leicester parted ways with Rodgers, their second-longest serving manager of the Premier League era, after he failed to turn around results, leaving them one place from bottom in the Premier League.

The Northern Irishman led the club to FA Cup and Community Shield success during his time in charge, as well as consecutive European finishes in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

Smith, meanwhile, was sacked at Norwich last December following a disappointing start to their first season back in the Championship.

The Foxes next play title-chasing Manchester City on Saturday, before they return home to host Wolves in what is likely to be a crucial game for their survival a week later.

City have 25 points from 30 matches, but just five points separate themselves and West Ham in 14th in a congested bottom half.

Real Madrid are trying to offload a pair of veterans to Tottenham. 

Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale could be on the way out at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Spurs are reportedly only interested in one of them.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS WEIGH BALE REUNION

Gareth Bale could be headed for a permanent return to Tottenham, El Nacional reports. 

Real Madrid have offered Bale and Eden Hazard to Spurs but head coach Antonio Conte is not interested in his former Chelsea player. 

However, Spurs may pounce for Bale at a reduced price before he is out of contract following the season.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United are interested in adding France defender Jules Kounde to replace Harry Maguire, says Todofichajes, which reports Sevilla will demand €80million (£68m) in return. 

Donny van de Beek wants out at United, according to the Metro, and Birmingham Live says Wolves will make a strong push to sign the Dutch midfielder, with Everton and Newcastle United also rumoured suitors.

- Fiorentina are willing to sell Dusan Vlahovic in January if an interested club like Manchester City or Tottenham will pay £70m for the Serbia international, says the Sun. Vlahovic has also been linked with Bayern MunichAtletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter and Arsenal.

Milan have joined Chelsea and Atletico in pursuit of 17-year-old Angers striker Mohamed-Ali Cho, according to L'Equipe. 

Barcelona will extend 17-year-old Spain sensation Gavi's contract for five years, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

Dean Smith's appointment at Norwich City is expected to become official Monday, says The Guardian. 

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