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Swansea City-Leicester City Preview
What do you do when your best player doesn't want to play for you?
Leicester City face this vexing question regarding wantaway winger Riyad Mahrez ahead of Saturday's match at King Power Stadium against suddenly resurgent Swansea City, who are looking for their third consecutive win over a top-eight side in the Premier League table.
Mahrez reportedly put in a late transfer request to leave Leicester City when it became apparent Manchester City were interested in the Algeria international as a potential replacement for the injured Leroy Sane.
While the deep-pocketed Premier League champions-elect were willing to spend as much as £60 million on the heels of a club-record £57 million transfer to land Aymeric Laporte, the Midlands club floored Manchester City with an eye-watering valuation of £95 million for Mahrez, prompting Manchester City to walk away from the negotiating table.
Devastated the deal fell through, Mahrez didn't practice Tuesday and did not accompany the team to Goodison Park, where Leicester City (9-7-9) had their 4-2-0 surge in all competitions end with a 2-1 loss to Everton on Wednesday. Jamie Vardy gave the Foxes a glimmer of hope for a point after pulling one back via penalty on 71 minutes, but the equaliser never came.
The next three days will be fraught with tension as Leicester City figure out what they are going to do with the talented yet mercurial Mahrez, who will also sit out this match.
"I will take all the information and we'll see with Riyad," manager Claude Puel told The Daily Star after the match. "We know the situation. We can understand. It's a reaction. It's a difficult situation for him and the club. We received at the last moment something about City.
"It was harsh for us. It was difficult for Riyad. We have to understand all the parts for me, for the squad, for the player. We will accept the decision … I have all confidence in the owner to (make) a good decision about Riyad for the future."
The dynamic of Leicester's offence took a further twist just before the deadline window closed as the club agreed to loan striker Islam Slimani to Newcastle for the remainder of the season. Slimani, who was a club-record £28 million acquisition, had five goals in 17 matches across all competitions but had totaled just 240 minutes and one goal in league play.
Swansea City (6-5-14), meanwhile, are awash in hope after moving off the foot of the table following back-to-back league wins over evergreens Liverpool and Arsenal while living to fight on in a fourth-round FA Cup replay versus Notts County following this match. The Swans are unbeaten in their last six (3-3-0) after toppling the Gunners 3-1 at home Tuesday.
A howler of an error by Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech gifted the go-ahead goal to Jordan Ayew in the 61st minute, and Sam Clucas completed a brace four minutes from time to seal the victory as the Swans climbed to 19th in the table. They trail Southampton on goal difference but are also just one point behind four teams for safety, two of which have inferior goal difference to Swansea's minus-18.
"If you are winning then life is happier," defender Mike van der Hoorn told Swansea's official website. "It changes you as a person. The belief is there, and now we need to keep this form up. It's all about winning."
Swansea have taken 10 of a possible 15 points since Carlos Carvalhal took over the team, and ownership made what they hope to be shrewd deadline day moves in acquiring Ayew's brother Andre back from West Ham for a club-record £18 million and veteran midfielder Andy King from Leicester City on loan in their bid to avoid the drop.
The reunion of the Ayew siblings marks the first time they will play together at the club level since their days at Ligue 1 side Marseille in 2013-14. Andre Ayew had 12 goals in 50 appearances for West Ham after leaving Swansea City before the 2016-17 campaign.
Swansea have a win and a draw in their last two road matches after dropping the previous seven. They have claimed just nine points in 12 matches outside Liberty Stadium while scoring just eight goals.
Leicester recorded a 2-1 victory in the reverse fixture in Wales on Oct. 21 as an own goal by Swans defender Federico Fernandez and a goal by Shinji Okazaki on either side of halftime were too much to overcome. Swansea pulled one back through Alfie Mawson on 56 minutes.
The Foxes have won seven on the bounce in all home competitions versus Swansea and are 10-3-0 there between the teams since a 3-2 loss in 1950 when the sides were toiling in Division Two.
Updated February 2, 2018