Thanks to the FA Cup semi-finals, matchday 33 in the Premier League is a bit more spread out, with just six games taking place at the weekend.

A further six games are scheduled for midweek, so there is a chance to get some of those pulling double duty in your fantasy team.

Whether your interests lie in the title race, the top-four scuffle or the relegation battle, there promises to be entertainment for everyone.

Therefore, it is time for Stats Perform to give you some suggested picks for your team using stats from the wonderful people at Opta.

HUGO LLORIS (Tottenham v Brighton and Hove Albion)

As odd as it sounds after a 4-0 win, had it not been for Lloris' heroics between the sticks last time out, Spurs could very well have lost against Aston Villa.

The Spurs captain made seven saves in the first half at Villa Park to keep Steven Gerrard's team out, with the visitors scoring four from their five on target in an afternoon of ruthless efficiency that had Antonio Conte smiling.

Only Alisson and Ederson (both 17) have kept more clean sheets in the Premier League this season than Lloris (12), while the Frenchman last recorded more shutouts in a single campaign in 2017-18 (15).

JOAO CANCELO (Manchester City v Brighton and Hove Albion)

This feels like we're picking on Brighton, but the fixture computer has not been kind to them, pitting them against two of the league's most in-form teams this week.

Only Gabriel Jesus (seven) has more assists for City in the Premier League this season than Joao Cancelo (six), as many as in his previous three league seasons combined.

As well as that, Cancelo is part of a staunch City defence that has conceded the fewest goals in the league this season (20), and against a Brighton side that has scored fewer goals (28) than all except Burnley (25) and Norwich (20), will be confident of a clean sheet on Wednesday.

JAMES MADDISON (Newcastle United v Leicester City, Everton v Leicester City)

Maddison is somewhat of an enigmatic player and, not that long ago, was struggling to start in Brendan Rodgers' strongest line-up.

However, he has already equalled his goal involvements tally for the entirety of last season in the Premier League (13), with the former Norwich man only bettering that in 2018-19 (14).

Indeed, he has either scored or assisted in each of his last three league appearances (one goal, two assists), last doing so in four such games in January 2021 (three goals, one assist).

CHRIS WOOD (Newcastle United v Leicester City, Newcastle United v Crystal Palace)

It has hardly been an electric start for life on Tyneside for Wood since his January move, though goals drying up for his former club and relegation rivals Burnley has been a positive added factor for the Magpies.

The New Zealander scored a crucial penalty in the 1-0 win against Wolves last time out, though, and he is looking to bag in consecutive league games for the first time since May 2021 (run of three).

Also, only against West Ham (seven) and Wolves (six) does Wood have more Premier League goals than he has previously managed against Leicester (four).

James Maddison hailed Leicester City's second-half fightback as "brilliant" after the Foxes reached the first European semi-final in their history.

A last-four clash with Jose Mourinho's Roma awaits Leicester as their Europa Conference League campaign gathers steam, with Thursday's 2-1 win at PSV highlighting their class.

Maddison scored a 77th-minute equaliser in Eindhoven, after Eran Zahavi's opener in the 27th minute for the Eredivisie hosts.

Ricardo Pereira then hit the winning goal in the 88th minute after Patson Daka had a shot blocked, carrying Brendan Rodgers' team into uncharted territory.

The first leg between the teams had finished goalless.

"I'm so proud of the boys, so proud of everyone here," Maddison told LCFC TV.

"These nights, there's such a big build-up, and you get that big-game feeling.

"We started a bit slow probably, and we actually played a lot better once they scored. We settled a little bit more when we were one goal behind, which is not ideal but is how it went.

"In the second half I thought we were brilliant, so intense, playing on the front foot, penning them in, and we scored two goals of quality to win the game, and I think we were deserved winners.

"I'm really happy and really proud of the lads."

Maddison's goal was his third of the season in the competition, the most by a Leicester player.

"I got the goal at a perfect time," said the England international. "It was brilliant from Ayoze Perez to chop the guy and lay it on a plate for me.

"From then I felt it, like we were going to go on and win the game, wherever it was going to come from. It felt we were fitter, more intense, and we go there in the end with Ricky at the back post."

Jesse Lingard's future with Manchester United is unclear.

The 29-year-old England international is out of contract at the end of the season.

Lingard had a brilliant loan spell at West Ham United last season but has remained out of favour at Old Trafford this term.

 

TOP STORY – ITALIAN OPTIONS FOR LINGARD

Lingard could reunite with Jose Mourinho at Roma, with the Italian club joining the race for the forward, according to the Mirror.

Lingard is being pursued by West Ham following his impressive loan spell, while Newcastle United are also interested in the 29-year-old.

Serie A clubs Milan and Juventus also have an interest in Lingard, with a move to Italy offering a lucrative alternative option.

English pair Chris Smalling and Tammy Abraham have enjoyed productive spells at Roma, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles is on loan from Arsenal.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid are moving on from their pursuit of Kylian Mbappe , who appears set to stay with Paris Saint-Germain, by turning their attention to landing Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, claims the Mirror.

- Inter will make a move to sign Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea, following his August exit from the Italian champions, reports Football Insider. Lukaku previously expressed his regret at leaving Inter.

- The Sun claims that Arsenal and Tottenham will battle to sign Leicester City midfielder James Maddison who is rated at £60million and could be put up for sale.

- Danny Ings could be on his way out of Aston Villa as manager Steven Gerrard plans a clear-out, according to the Mirror.

- CBS Sports claims Liverpool and West Ham are no longer interested in Leicester City's Youri Tielemans, leaving the door open for Manchester United to land the midfielder.

- Juventus are circling for Chelsea midfielder Jorginho , reports Tutto Mercato.

James Maddison's importance to Leicester City is of little debate, but the Foxes are considering selling the playmaker.

Though the 25-year-old's sole senior England cap came in 2019, he has provided 13 goals and eight assists in 41 appearances across all competitions this season.

However, Maddison's sale might be required to facilitate the Foxes strengthening in other areas.

 

TOP STORY – MADDISON SALE TO FUND LEICESTER REVAMP

Leicester are weighing up the prospect of Maddison's sale in order to make new signings, the Daily Mail has reported.

Manager Brendan Rodgers wants three new additions to propel the Foxes up the Premier League following a season in which they have plateaued.

Leicester will reportedly back Rodgers, but the impact of coronavirus on their finances would likely mean outgoing as well as incoming transfers, and Maddison holds one of the higher market values at the club.

The 25-year-old's £50million price tag would provide serious flexibility in the transfer market, while the club also has to make decisions on Caglar Soyuncu and Youri Tielemans.

ROUND-UP

–  Barcelona want to confirm a contract extension for Ronald Araujo , who has received an offer from Manchester United, according to Sport, but the 23-year-old has viewed this club's pursuit of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen with caution.

–  Arsenal and Tottenham are keen to sign Lautaro Martinez , but Inter will only sell if they meet a transfer demand in excess of €80million (£67.3m), per Calciomercato.

– The Sun is reporting Newcastle are preparing a £20million offer for Brighton and Hove Albion goalkeeper Robert Sanchez, while also showing interest in Watford's Ismaila Sarr.

–  Manchester United target Manuel Akanji wants to leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season and is considering a move to the Premier League, according to Sport1.

Steven Bergwijn scored a stunning double deep into stoppage time as Tottenham snatched a 3-2 Premier League win at Leicester City on Wednesday.

Patson Daka put the Foxes in front against the run of play in a thrilling contest on Wednesday, but Harry Kane's 250th club goal of his career brought Spurs level in a pulsating first half.

James Maddison looked to have consigned Antonio Conte to a first top-flight defeat as Spurs boss when he restored Leicester's lead 14 minutes from time.

Bergwijn had other ideas, coming off the bench to strike twice with time running out to move Spurs above fierce rivals Arsenal into fifth place.

 

Even numerous coronavirus-enforced cancellations could not stop the Premier League's Boxing Day schedule from delivering a mountain of goals.

Leaders Manchester City demolished Leeds United 7-0 earlier in December before a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle and followed that up with a nine-goal thriller against Leicester City.

Mikel Arteta's in-form Arsenal maintained their pursuit of a Champions League spot by smashing five past struggling Norwich City, while the reinvigorated Tottenham cruised past London rivals Crystal Palace.

Staying in the capital, West Ham's poor run of form continued in a 3-2 home loss to Southampton before Chelsea came from behind to defeat Aston Villa on the road.

After plenty of festive cheer across Sunday's top-flight action, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of the Opta data.

Tottenham 3-0 Crystal Palace: Conte's deadly trio down sorry Eagles

Spurs had lost just one of their last 12 top-flight home games against Palace and continued that impressive run of form as Harry Kane equalled another record in a dominant 3-0 win.

Kane opened the scoring in the first half after Lucas Moura's set him up, netting in his sixth consecutive Boxing Day fixture as he equalled Robbie Fowler's Premier League scoring record of nine goals on the day after Christmas.

Lucas added a second as he scored and assisted in the same top-flight game for the first time, with the Brazilian registering five goal involvements in his last five league games, as many as in his previous 23 matches in the competition.

Wilfried Zaha's first-half dismissal for two bookable offences compounded Palace's misery, the winger's fifth red card for the Eagles in all competitions - three more than any other player for the club since his debut in 2010.

Son Heung-min then scored his sixth goal in six home top-flight games against Palace, as Antonio Conte became just the third Spurs boss to go unbeaten in their first six league games after Jacques Santini in 2004-05 and Tim Sherwood in 2013-14.

Manchester City 6-3 Leicester City: Citizens defeat Foxes in Boxing Day record thriller

City went down 5-2 in this fixture last season but triumphed in a 6-3 classic this time around, despite a spirited second-half fightback from Leicester, in the first Premier League game on Boxing Day to see as many as nine goals.

Kevin de Bruyne netted first and has now scored in five of his last six league starts at the Etihad Stadium, before Riyad Mahrez scored in his fourth consecutive appearance for the first time since he moved to England in 2014 as he converted from the spot.

Raheem Sterling, who has won the most penalties by any player in Premier League history (22), rolled another spot-kick in, while Ilkay Gundogan was on target as Leicester went 4-0 down inside 25 minutes for the first time in the top flight since Watford did so against City in 2019.

Leicester reduced the deficit after the interval as James Maddison found the net for the fourth time in his last five top-flight appearances before loanee Ademola Lookman finished past Ederson.

Those two earlier goals were teed up by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted twice in a top-flight match for the first time before adding a goal of his own to make it 4-3.

However, Pep Guardiola's side confirmed victory with an Aymeric Laporte header and Sterling's second – City's 112th league goal in 2021, the most a team has netted in a year since Arsenal also scored 112 in 1963.

Norwich City 0-5 Arsenal: Saka at the double as Gunners equal away record

Bukayo Saka registered a brace as high-flying Arsenal ran riott in a 5-0 victory over Norwich, who have played more Premier League games on Boxing Day without ever winning than any other side in the competition (eight).

Saka struck his first after just six minutes before his second arrived after the hour mark. At 20 years and 112 days, he is the second-youngest player to score 10-plus Premier League goals for Arsenal, after Nicolas Anelka (19y 225d).

Kieran Tierney doubled the Gunners' lead in between Saka's pair of goals, with Martin Odegaard providing his second assist of the game – the Norway international has been involved in six goals in his last six league games, two more than he had in his first 25 appearances in the competition.

Alexandre Lacazette added a fourth, while Emile Smith Rowe scored after coming off the bench once again – his league-leading third goal as a substitute. No top-flight team have bettered Arsenal's five goals from substitutes this season.

Norwich were unable to find a way past Aaron Ramsdale as the Gunners registered their joint-biggest margin of victory away from home in a Premier League match, while scoring four-plus goals in consecutive away league games for the first time since 2009.

Aston Villa 1-3 Chelsea: Jorginho penalty brace seals Blues comeback triumph

Chelsea have stuttered in recent weeks but returned to winning ways as a Jorginho brace ensured they came from behind to defeat Aston Villa 3-1.

Reece James inadvertently flicked into his own net as Villa were gifted an own goal by Chelsea in the Premier League for only the second time, after Frank Sinclair also turned past his own goalkeeper back in December 1994.

Jorginho soon restored parity from the spot after Matthew Cash had felled Callum Hudson-Odoi before substitute Romelu Lukaku headed the Blues into the lead with his ninth top-flight goal in 10 appearances against Villa.

Jorginho wrapped things up as he rolled in again from 12 yards, with his 17th Premier League strike from the spot. In fact, 89 per cent of his 19 goals have come from penalties, the highest such ratio of anyone with 10-plus goals in the competition’s history.

Since Thomas Tuchel's first game in charge in January, the Blues have scored more penalties than any other club in England's premier competition (12), with Jorginho netting 10 of these himself - more than any other club besides Chelsea in that period.

Manchester City survived a spirited Leicester City fightback to prevail 6-3 winners in a thrilling Boxing Day encounter at the Etihad Stadium.

Though pegged back to 4-3 from 4-0 up, Pep Guardiola's men moved six points clear at the top of the Premier League table following a ninth successive victory.

Kevin De Bruyne scored the first of four goals for the hosts inside the opening 25 minutes, while a pair of penalties from Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling sandwiched Ilkay Gundogan's strike.

The Foxes came roaring back after the break as James Maddison, Ademola Lookman and Kelechi Iheanacho threatened the most unlikely comeback, but Aymeric Laporte and Sterling got the Citizens back on track and secured the points.

Man City took the lead in the fifth minute following neat interplay as De Bruyne controlled Fernandinho’s lofted pass into the box before sweeping past Kasper Schmeichel.

The hosts doubled the advantage with Mahrez, who had lost in all five of his previous Premier League appearances on Boxing Day, firing home from 12 yards after Youri Tielemans bundled over Laporte.

Gundogan made it 3-0 after another lovely exchange of passes culminated in Schmeichel parrying Joao Cancelo's low cross straight to the Germany international, who made no mistake from close range.

Three became four soon after, with Tielemans the offender again as he brought down Sterling, who picked himself up and emphatically swept his penalty into the top corner.

Nevertheless, Leicester responded brilliantly after the break. The visitors halved the deficit by the hour mark with a couple of quickfire counters resulting in Iheanacho well-timed throughballs for Maddison and Lookman to finish.

Former Man City forward Iheanacho then got in on the act to reduce the arrears to a single goal, but the hosts pulled clear from two Mahrez corners, with Laporte and Sterling profiting. 

Liverpool are through to the EFL Cup semi-finals after edging Leicester City 5-4 in a penalty shootout having overturned a two-goal deficit in a gripping 3-3 draw.

Caoimhin Kelleher saved two Leicester penalties before Diogo Jota – a key figure off the bench – converted the crucial kick to send Jurgen Klopp's much-changed Reds through.

A Vardy brace had initially put the visitors 2-0 up early on at Anfield, and although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got Liverpool on the scoreboard, a spectacular Maddison strike had Leicester cruising at the break.

But half-time substitute Jota reduced the deficit again after the hour and Takumi Minamino equalised deep into stoppage time to force a shootout.

Minamino was the sole Red to miss his kick, but it mattered not as Kelleher denied Luke Thomas and Ryan Bertrand to allow Jota to wrap things up.

 

Leicester City midfielder James Maddison does not feel he had anything to prove after an impressive performance in his team's 3-1 win against Legia Warsaw in the Europa League on Thursday.

The 25-year-old scored and assisted during his hour on the pitch at the King Power Stadium in a victory that sent the Foxes to the top of Group C with one match remaining.

All four goals in the game came in the first half, with Patson Daka and Wilfred Ndidi also on the scoresheet for the hosts, while Filip Mladenovic followed up to score after Mahir Emreli's spot-kick was saved by Kasper Schmeichel.

Maddison was heavily involved in most of Leicester's dangerous attacking play, making two key passes, having three shots and putting in six crosses.

He also scored the second goal of the game, with his fierce left-foot effort after a one-two with Ademola Lookman giving Legia goalkeeper Cezary Miszta no chance.

Speaking to BT Sport after the win, Maddison was asked whether he felt he had something to prove after a stop-start season, with just eight of his 12 appearances in the Premier League coming from the start.

"I don't think I had a point to prove, no," Maddison said. "I'm hungry. I always want to do well for my team, for the fans, my family, the manager.

"I want to get back to my best and tonight I showed that."

It is the third time Maddison has both scored and assisted in a single game for Leicester in all competitions, having previously done so against Braga and Brentford.

We move to the summit of the group #LeiLgw pic.twitter.com/OhOu2jS7uu

— Leicester City (@LCFC) November 25, 2021

Meanwhile, Brendan Rodgers alleviated fears around Jonny Evans, who was injured in the warm-up and replaced by Daniel Amartey, with the Foxes boss confirming that the centre-back's withdrawal before the game was merely a precaution.

"He just felt something in his thigh, and the last thing we can do is have anyone else out, especially such an important player like Jonny. He should be fine for the weekend," he told BT Sport.

On the win, the former Liverpool and Celtic manager was particularly pleased to see his team return to their usual standards of pressing after four games without a win in all competitions.

"The atmosphere was amazing," he added. "The supporters played a huge part in it, and like I said before the game, just returning to our football with our pressing and really intense counter-pressing, that won us the game, especially in the first half."

Leicester leapfrogged all three of their Europa League rivals to the top of Group C after a comfortable 3-1 win against Legia Warsaw at the King Power Stadium.

The Foxes started Thursday's game bottom of a tight group, but with Spartak Moscow beating Napoli 2-1 on Wednesday, Brendan Rodgers' side now sit top thanks to first-half goals from Patson Daka, James Maddison and Wilfried Ndidi.

The only negative for Rodgers on the night aside from Filip Mladenovic's consolation strike was losing Jonny Evans to a muscle injury in the warm-up, with Daniel Amartey replacing him in defence.

The Premier League outfit will travel to Napoli for the final game of the group stage knowing that a draw will be enough to see them qualify for the knockout stage.

Leicester put the pressure on the visitors from the first whistle and were ahead in the 11th minute when good work from Harvey Barnes forced a deflection that fell kindly for Daka, who calmly slid in his fifth Europa League goal of the campaign.

They doubled their lead in the 21st minute as Maddison worked the ball onto his left foot after a one-two with Ademola Lookman before firing into the top corner of the net.

The Polish side had a penalty just five minutes later after Caglar Soyuncu's clearance struck Wilfried Ndidi on the arm. Mahir Emreli's spot-kick was saved by Kasper Schmeichel but Mladenovic was quickest to follow up and slot in the rebound.

Ndidi made amends for his penalty concession in the 33rd minute, though, as the unmarked Nigerian headed in Leicester's third from a Maddison corner.

Both teams could have added to the scoring in the second half but the hosts were happy to see out the win, only their second in this year's Europa League group stage.

 

What does it mean? Foxes in the driving seat

Leicester avenged the 1-0 defeat they suffered in the reverse fixture on matchday two with relative ease and now sit top of Group C, one point ahead of both Spartak Moscow and Napoli.

Rodgers will be more than satisfied with that after picking up just one point from their first two games in the group, though it promises to be a tough final fixture in Naples in two weeks.

The Foxes have now only lost two of their 16 home matches in European football (W9 D5).

Maddison rises to the occasion

Maddison has had a quiet start to the season, but was at his influential best in the hour he got on the pitch against Legia, taking three shots, making two key passes and putting in six crosses.

The 25-year-old also scored and assisted in a single game for Leicester for the third time in all competitions, previously doing so against Sporting Braga (November 2020 in the Europa League) and Brentford (January 2021 in the FA Cup).

Legia Warsaw in crisis

Marek Golebiewski's side have now lost nine of their last ten games in all competitions and sit second from bottom in the Polish top flight.

This was Legia Warsaw’s first European match in England since November 1995, when they drew 0-0 with Blackburn Rovers in the Champions League group stages, and despite getting on the scoresheet, never looked like stopping the rot in Leicester.

What’s next?

Leicester host former boss Claudio Ranieri and his Watford team in the Premier League on Sunday, while Legia Warsaw are at home to Jagiellonia Bialystok on the same day in the Ekstraklasa.

Leicester leapfrogged all three of their Europa League rivals to the top of Group C after a comfortable 3-1 win against Legia Warsaw at the King Power Stadium.

The Foxes started Thursday's game bottom of a tight group, but with Spartak Moscow beating Napoli 2-1 on Wednesday, Brendan Rodgers' side now sit top thanks to first-half goals from Patson Daka, James Maddison and Wilfried Ndidi.

The only negative for Rodgers on the night aside from Filip Mladenovic's consolation strike was losing Jonny Evans to a muscle injury in the warm-up, with Daniel Amartey replacing him in defence.

The Premier League outfit will travel to Napoli for the final game of the group stage knowing that a draw will be enough to see them qualify for the knockout stage.

Leicester put the pressure on the visitors from the first whistle and were ahead in the 11th minute when good work from Harvey Barnes forced a deflection that fell kindly for Daka, who calmly slid in his fifth Europa League goal of the campaign.

They doubled their lead in the 21st minute as Maddison worked the ball onto his left foot after a one-two with Ademola Lookman before firing into the top corner of the net.

The Polish side had a penalty just five minutes later after Caglar Soyuncu's clearance struck Wilfried Ndidi on the arm. Mahir Emreli's spot-kick was saved by Kasper Schmeichel but Mladenovic was quickest to follow up and slot in the rebound.

Ndidi made amends for his penalty concession in the 33rd minute, though, as the unmarked Nigerian headed in Leicester's third from a Maddison corner.

Both teams could have added to the scoring in the second half but the hosts were happy to see out the win, only their second in this year's Europa League group stage.

 

What does it mean? Foxes in the driving seat

Leicester avenged the 1-0 defeat they suffered in the reverse fixture on matchday two with relative ease and now sit top of Group C, one point ahead of both Spartak Moscow and Napoli.

Rodgers will be more than satisfied with that after picking up just one point from their first two games in the group, though it promises to be a tough final fixture in Naples in two weeks.

The Foxes have now only lost two of their 16 home matches in European football (W9 D5).

Maddison rises to the occasion

Maddison has had a quiet start to the season, but was at his influential best in the hour he got on the pitch against Legia, taking three shots, making two key passes and putting in six crosses.

The 25-year-old also scored and assisted in a single game for Leicester for the third time in all competitions, previously doing so against Sporting Braga (November 2020 in the Europa League) and Brentford (January 2021 in the FA Cup).

Legia Warsaw in crisis

Marek Golebiewski's side have now lost nine of their last ten games in all competitions and sit second from bottom in the Polish top flight.

This was Legia Warsaw’s first European match in England since November 1995, when they drew 0-0 with Blackburn Rovers in the Champions League group stages, and despite getting on the scoresheet, never looked like stopping the rot in Leicester.

What’s next?

Leicester host former boss Claudio Ranieri and his Watford team in the Premier League on Sunday, while Legia Warsaw are at home to Jagiellonia Bialystok on the same day in the Ekstraklasa.

After weeks of reports that Arsenal were poised to make a move for James Maddison, Brendan Rodgers has dismissed that notion as "all gossip", saying no bids have been made made. 

The Leicester City manager said ahead of Monday's trip to West Ham that he believes everyone in the squad wants to remain at the King Power.

That marks a significant step for the Foxes, who have grown accustomed to losing key players to big-money rivals. 

Maddison appeared to be the man in demand during the off-season but Rodgers insisted there have been no offers for the 24-year-old England international. 

“There’s obviously been things around James this summer but the reality is that it was all gossip, as there was never an inquiry or a bid made," Rodgers said. "There was no drama there.”

The Gunners' £30million move to land Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid may have pre-empted an official bid, but the bottom line is the same for Leicester. 

On the heels of a second successive fifth-place finish in the league and with a new training facility up and running, Rodgers said he believes the club is ready to retain its players. 

"Players have felt the need to move on and further their careers, which is fine, and that's the nature of the game," Rodgers said. "It will always happen and some of the biggest clubs in the world will lose their players.

"You've always got to be preparing this pipeline of players going forward so if you do lose them you get the next ones coming in. That's something we are very clear on as a club.

"I just think this summer the players have been able to reflect on where we're at as a team and a club and feel they want to be a part of that, which is great news."

Brendan Rodgers is confident James Maddison will remain a Leicester City player, despite speculation linking him with Arsenal.

Having already brought in Ben White and Albert Sambi Lokonga, Arsenal are rumoured to be interested in the Leicester midfielder, though Rodgers dismissed those reports on Thursday.

Leicester, who are preparing for the Community Shield on Saturday, won the FA Cup last season before falling at the final hurdle for Champions League qualification, with Maddison playing an integral role.

"Yes, I believe so," Rodgers said when asked whether Maddison would remain at the King Power Stadium. "I haven't been told anything to say he won't be.

"He's happy in training, he's working very hard and he's just recently become a father so he has responsibility off the pitch as well.

"There's obviously gossip and speculation that goes around, especially this time of year, but James is a very important member of our squad.

"He's a very talented player. His season was disrupted last year by injury but hopefully this season he can go and show what a top player he is.”

Maddison, whose 13 goal involvements in 31 games last term represented his best return in the Premier League, led Leicester's charts for chances created with 51, despite playing seven games fewer than second-placed Youri Tielemans.

The England midfielder's 788 passes inside the opposition half were the second most among Rodgers' players, yet Maddison still ranked fourth with 81.22 per cent of those balls finding a team-mate.

While Rodgers will have reason to celebrate if he can keep a hold of playmaker Maddison, Wednesday's friendly against Villarreal led to concerning issues at the back.

Wesley Fofana, who was just one of two defenders to attempt at least 50 tackles, make 50 interceptions and produce 50 headed clearances last season, suffered a broken leg against the LaLiga outfit, leaving Leicester short for centre-backs.

Rodgers admitted he was "not overly happy with the way the game was officiated" and concluded it was "disappointing for something like that to happen in a pre-season friendly".

Already without the injured Jonny Evans, Leicester have just Caglar Soyuncu left as a first-choice centre-half and could be forced to push Wilfred Ndidi back into defence for Saturday's clash with Manchester City.

Rodgers now faces a race against the clock to fill the defensive void as he noted the shock 2015-16 Premier League winners are "definitely light in that area."

European champions Chelsea have been in the market for a new striker this off-season.

The Blues chased Erling Haaland without success and have now set their sights on Romelu Lukaku.

Lukaku was on Chelsea's books from 2011 and 2014 but has since become one of the world's best forwards.

 

TOP STORY - CHELSEA TO TABLE NEW BUMPER LUKAKU BID

Chelsea  are preparing to table a new bid of between £100million and £110m (€120-130m) bid for Inter forward  Lukaku  claims Fabrizio Romano.

The Blues had an initial £85m (€100m) offer, including Marcos Alonso, for the Belgian striker rejected by Inter.

The Sun claim Lukaku is keen on a return to Chelsea, citing "unfinished business" from his previous stint in London.

 

ROUND-UP

- Paris Saint-Germain are not guaranteed to retain Real Madrid target  Kylian Mbappe , reports AS. The France superstar has already informed PSG that he will not extend his current contract, due to expire in 2022, and president Nasser Al-Khelaifi is set to take over talks.

- Aymeric Laporte has told Manchester City he wants to leave to return to Spain this off-season, reports 90min. Barcelona and Real Madrid are both interested in the Spain international, who is not first choice at City.

- Arsenal have proposed a player-plus-cash deal, believed to be worth £60m, for Leicester City's James Maddison according to Football.London, but negotiations are "very slow". 

- Tottenham will complete a £47m (€55m) deal for Atalanta defender  Cristian Romero imminently according to Romano. Atalanta will fill the void by signing Merih Demiral from Juventus.

Jack Grealish was the player England fans wanted to see during Euro 2020.

Now a move to a bigger Premier League club might be on the cards.

Grealish is reportedly moving closer to leaving Aston Villa.

 

TOP STORY – CITY EYE GREALISH SWOOP

It seems increasingly unlikely Aston Villa will be able to hold onto Jack Grealish.

The England winger has agreed to personal terms with Manchester City, according to a Football Insider report.

Though he grew up a Villa fan and has spent his entire career with the club, save for a season on loan to Notts County, Grealish is in demand among the Premier League's big-money clubs.

City reportedly are preparing a £90million offer that would be difficult for Villa to refuse.

ROUND-UP

- With Paul Pogba and Manchester United at a stalemate in contract talks, the Telegraph says Paris Saint-Germain believe they can sign the midfielder with a £43million bid.

- Alexandre Lacazette is entering his final year under contract with Arsenal but the Gunners are ready to move on. According to the Sun, they are hoping to net £15m for Lacazette after paying £52m to sign him four years ago.

- Arsenal remain interested in a move for James Maddison, reports the Mirror, and they could explore a swap deal with Leicester City to get it done.

- PSG want to keep Moise Kean on a permanent deal after his year on loan from Everton, but Juventus also are interested, Le 10 Sport reports.

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