Man City target Riyad Mahrez will not return to Leicester quickly

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Leicester are prepared to take their time reintegrating Riyad Mahrez back into the club.

It is understood the Algeria international missed training on Tuesday after failing to land a deadline day move to Manchester City last month.

The Foxes travel to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday with Mahrez now expected to miss the game, having sat out the last two matches.

They will hold talks with Mahrez’s representatives but will not rush the former PFA Player of the Year back.

A ‘close friend’ of Mahrez has been quoted saying the winger was depressed after the failed move and it has changed the dynamic of discussions.

Leicester need to be cautious with how they deal with the issue surrounding Mahrez’s health.

Mahrez wanted to leave the King Power Stadium last month, handing in another transfer request following an initial one in the summer.

Split: Riyad Mahrez has fallen out with Claude Puel and Leicester over the failed transfer.

Split: Riyad Mahrez has fallen out with Claude Puel and Leicester over the failed transfer.

Leicester stood firm on their valuation though and eventually asked Manchester City for £80million cash.

City’s final offer was £50million plus an unnamed player who they valued at £15million.

Philippe Coutinho’s £142million move to Barcelona from Liverpool and the fact City had just spent £57million on defender Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao stiffened Leicester’s resolve.

Mahrez also only signed an improved four-year deal in 2016 after helping the Foxes, under Claudio Ranieri, to a shock Premier League title.

He stayed for their Champions League campaign, where they reached the quarter-finals, but now wants to leave.

Mahrez has missed the 2-1 defeat to Everton and last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Swansea.

Boss Claude Puel has remained tight-lipped over the saga and hinted he is happy to prepare for games without the 26-year-old.

He said: “Riyad is not my preoccupation. My preoccupation is about my available players and to keep them in a positive attitude and to continue this good work.

“My only feelings are about my available players and as for Riyad we will see later.”

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Antonio Conte set to stay as Chelsea boss as players given three days off

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Chelsea feel a three-day break will help allow the players to return to training refreshed and ready tackle the challenges ahead under manager Antonio Conte.

Italian Conte has found his position in the spotlight following two straight Premier League defeats including Monday’s 4-1 loss at Watford.

Press Association Sport understands that there was no board meeting on Tuesday to discuss the manager’s future.

Former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique and Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone have both been linked with Conte’s job, but it is understood there are currently no discussions with any other potential managerial candidates.

The Chelsea players have, though, been given three days off before returning on Friday in the build-up to the home match against West Brom on February 12.

Conte remained defiant when again pressed on his future after the defeat at Vicarage Road, where the home side scored three late goals after Eden Hazard’s fine 81st-minute strike looked to have rescued a draw.

“I’m not worried about my job,” the Italian said, before signalling his intention to continue working to turn the team’s form around.

Conte arrived at Stamford Bridge during the summer of 2016 and swiftly led Chelsea to the Premier League title, winning 30 matches.

However, mounting a successful defence while also juggling the demands of a European campaign has proved testing, with Chelsea now some 19 points behind leaders Manchester City.

Yet despite having also lost 3-0 at home to Bournemouth last week, Chelsea remain in the top four of the Premier League, one point ahead of Tottenham.

Conte has also guided the Blues into the fifth round of the FA Cup, where they will be at home against Sky Bet Championship side Hull, while also soon getting set for a Champions League showdown with Barcelona.

Chelsea backed their manager, who still has 18 months of his contract to run, during the January transfer window by bringing in defender Emerson Palmieri from Roma and France forward Olivier Giroud from Arsenal.

Although the spotlight is very much on Conte’s future, Chelsea defender Gary Cahill maintains the squad needs to be held accountable for the “abysmal” performance against Watford.

“Whatever is decided, the players have to take responsibility. The manager has done an absolutely unbelievable job,” Cahill said.

“This is the worst I’ve felt for quite a while.

“Performance-wise, I didn’t recognise us or myself.

“It was abysmal. It hurts a lot when you come off after a performance like that.

“We just need to keep strong. I’ve been here before at this club – it’s about staying calm.”

Chelsea have, meanwhile, vowed to ban any supporters found to have used antisemitic language or behaviour “which shames our club” during the match at Watford.

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Get ready for Frantic February - all the biggest matches in the Premier League this month... and our predictions

Alex Broun 7/02/2018
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With the race for the top four and the relegation dogfight set to be among the closet in Premier League history, February is shaping up as a season defining month for many teams.

We take a look at some of the crucial fixtures set to determine who finishes where in 2017/18 and where they will be playing their football in 2018/19.

TOP FOUR

Saturday February 10 – 16:30 Wembley Stadium

Spurs v Arsenal

Tottenham are backing up after a controversial 2-2 draw with the Liverpool last Sunday, and also have the visit of Newport in the FA Cup on Wednesday before facing their bitter north London rivals.

Of course a lot is always at stake when these two meet but after Arsenal found some form with a 5-1 hammering of Everton last time out – the stakes are higher than usual.

There won’t be room for both these teams in the top four and if Spurs can win this one they will go seven-points clear of the Gunners with just 11 games to go.

If Arsenal can do the business however they will be just one-point behind Tottenham and back in the hunt for Champions League qualification.

The Gunners looked buoyant with new signings Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan enjoying their new surroundings against Everton and maybe Arsene Wegner can conjure up one last great escape act.

Prediction: Spurs 2 Arsenal 1

Alexis Sanchez has had a big impact on Man Utd

Alexis Sanchez has had a big impact on Man Utd

Sunday February 25 – 18:05 Old Trafford

Manchester United v Chelsea

With Alexis Sanchez’ arrival seemingly giving United a new lease on life they look to have one of the three remaining top four spots locked up.

But Chelsea are in free fall – and may have a new manager by the time this match arrives.

A loss here for Chelsea could be the death-knell for their top four chances while a win for United might just keep alive their faint hopes of catching City. Or make sure of their Champions League place for next year.

Prediction: United 2 Chelsea 0

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal is challenged by Idrissa Gueye of Everton during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Everton at Emirates Stadium on February 3, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Can Aubameyang inspire Arsenal to a top four finish?

Thursday March 1 – 23:45 Emirates Stadium

Arsenal v Manchester City

The second of two huge matches for Arsenal in the month and another must win if they are to stay in the hunt for the top four.

City have begun to look human in recent weeks with a loss to Liverpool and a draw to Burnley and if they take their foot off the gas at the Emirates if might open the door for Arsenal to re-enter the top four and United to re-enter the title race.

Expect lots of free-flowing football, high levels of skill and lots of goals. Last one to score loses.

Prediction: 2-2

RELEGATION RABBLE

With just seven points separating last place and 12th, no less than nine teams currently in a relegation scrap: West Ham, Brighton, Crystal Palace, Southampton, Newcastle, Swansea, Stoke, Hudddersfield and West Brom.

In February there is the opportunity for many six-pointers – with three points for the winners putting them closer to safety and the losers closer to the Championship. Here’s our picks:

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - JANUARY 31: Manager of Stoke City Paul Lambert during the Premier League match between Stoke City and Watford at Bet365 Stadium on January 31, 2018 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Desperate times for Stoke City and Paul Lambert

Saturday February 10 – 19:00 365 Stadium

Stoke v Brighton

Stoke are currently in the bottom three while Brighton are three points ahead. A win for the visitors would take them closer to safety while a loss for the hosts would plunge them deeper into peril.

Brighton had a morale boosting 3-1 winner over West Ham last weekend while Stoke slumped to their first loss under new manager Paul Lambert – 2-1 at Bournemouth.

Lambert must lift his troops against their fellow strugglers – or Stoke will look even more like a candidate for the drop.

Prediction: 1-1

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03: David Wagner, Manager of Huddersfield Town reacts during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford on February 3, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)

Pressure is building on David Wagner and Huddersfield Town.

Sunday February 11 – 16:00 John Smith’s Stadium

Huddersfield v Bournemouth

The Cherries are on a stunning run of form, unbeaten in their last five, including wins over Arsenal, Chelsea and Stoke. Eddie Howe’s team will be very confident of a win at the Terriers who are on a completely contrasting run on form – losing their last five.

Huddersfield were impressive early on in their first Premier League campaign since 1971/72 but David Wagner needs to stop the slide now or the Town are going straight back down. Another win for Bournemouth and they can start planning for another year in the top flight.

Prediction: Huddersfield 1 Bournemouth 2

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03: Lys Mousset of AFC Bournemouth celebrates scoring his side's second goal with team mates during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Stoke City at Vitality Stadium on February 3, 2018 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Bournemouth are on a great run – unbeaten in five.

Saturday February 24 – 19:00 Vitality Stadium

Bournemouth v Newcastle

The first of three relegation clashes on a day that could come to define who stayed up and who went down in season 17/18.

Bournemouth at home will be heavily favoured to chalk up another win against a limited Newcastle line up. Rafa Benitez will have to dig deep into his bag of tactical tricks to get a result but the best The Magpies could do is a draw – and that may not be enough at this stage of the season.

Prediction: 1-1

SWANSEA, WALES - FEBRUARY 06: Carlos Carvalhal, Manager of Swansea City looks on during The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Swansea City and Notts County at the Liberty Stadium on February 6, 2018 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

New Manager Carlos Carvalhal looks like a miracle worker at Swansea.

Saturday February 24 – 19:00 Amex Stadium

Brighton v Swansea

The Swans have pulled off some super-human results since miracle worker Carlos Carvalhal took over with wins over Liverpool and Arsenal pulling them out of the bottom three.

But if Swansea are to survive then they need to keep winning games like this one.

At the worst the Swans can afford a draw but a loss to Brighton here would see the Seagulls chances of survival greatly strengthen while Swansea may slide back into the bottom three – so important is every match between the bottom nine in the run in.

Prediction: 2-2

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03: Alan Pardew manager of West Bromwich Albion during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Southampton at The Hawthorns on February 3, 2018 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

West Bromwich Albion look more and more bound for the drop.

Saturday February 24 – 19:00 The Hawthorns

West Brom v Huddersfield

This shapes up as another life and death struggle for the two sides currently bottom and second bottom in the premier league.

West Brom had some promising glimpses with a win over Brighton and a draw with Everton before losses against Man City and fellow strugglers Southampton saw them slip back in the mire.

While Huddersfield as noted above had lost five in a row prior to the visit of Bournemouth.

At this point in time both these sides look increasingly strong prospects for the drop and to pull themselves out of the bottom three one of them must win this match – but the most likely result is a desperate scrappy draw that won’t help either team.

Prediction: 1-1

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