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Relegation a genuine prospect for stumbling Leicester

Agencies | Updated: 2017-02-06 10:37

Relegation a genuine prospect for stumbling Leicester

Leicester City's Jamie Vardy reacts during the Premer League match against Manchester United in King Power Stadium, Feb 5, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

MANCHESTER, England - Relegation is looming as a genuine prospect for stuttering Premier League champion Leicester.

It's 79 years since a defending champion was relegated from England's top division — the fate befell Manchester City in 1938 — but Leicester is heading that way after a 3-0 home loss to Manchester United on Sunday.

That left Claudio Ranieri's team in 16th place in the 20-team league, one point above the relegation zone with 14 matches left. This time last season, the Foxes were atop the standings and on their way to the most remarkable title triumph in Premier League history.

"Let's not talk about last season. It's gone," Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said. "It is not a comfortable situation. It has been terrible, embarrassing. It is time for each one of us — from the top to the bottom of this club — to be counted. If we don't, we will be relegated."Leicester hasn't scored in five league games in 2017 and is still without a win away from home all season, hardly encouraging statistics ahead of an important game next weekend at 17th-placed Swansea.

Unconfirmed reports of dressing-room unrest have surfaced in the British media in recent weeks, adding to Leicester's problems. The team clearly misses the influence of central midfielder N'Golo Kante, who left for Chelsea in the offseason, while other star players from last season — notably Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy — have lost their form altogether. Motivation also seems an issue, with progress in the Champions League having been the priority in the first half of the season.

Ranieri, who is starting to come under criticism, has tried different formations and different players but to no avail. In 24 games of the title defense, Leicester has lost 13 of them.

For United, it's 15 matches unbeaten in the league and the top four — and therefore the Champions League qualifications positions — are in sight for Jose Mourinho's men. United is sixth, two points behind fourth-placed Liverpool.

It was also a good day for Man City, which beat Swansea 2-1 thanks to Gabriel Jesus' injury-time goal to climb above Arsenal and Liverpool into third place.

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