At long last, one of the more wearisome transfer sagas of the past 12 months is nearing conclusion – Manchester United announced they have agreed a fee with Sporting CP for Bruno Fernandes.

It seemed for a while that Fernandes would join United in pre-season, but, despite their seemingly obvious need for midfield reinforcements, a move never materialised and he remained with Sporting.

Speculation began to stir again last month, and the two clubs are said to have been locked in talks for much of January – though reports of Barcelona apparently hoping to sign Fernandes in order to use him in negotiations with Valencia for Rodrigo Moreno surfaced earlier this week.

Whether or not that story was a ploy by an agent to jolt United into decisive action, who knows? But something seemed to change this week, as the Red Devils finally reached an agreement with Sporting.

Fernandes had a massive impact at the club during his two-and-a-half-year spell, becoming captain and scoring or setting up 67 Primeira Liga goals in 83 appearances.

United certainly don't have a 100 per cent hit-rate when it comes to signings from Portugal – below, we examined whether their previous imports from the Iberian nation have been misses or not.

Cristiano Ronaldo (2003-2009) – HIT

The one that needs no introduction – Ronaldo was a revelation for United following his 2003 arrival from Sporting. The lanky teenager dazzled against United when they faced Sporting for the opening of their Jose Alvalade stadium and, as the story goes, those he tormented implored Alex Ferguson to sign him. So, he did. Outrageously skilful and flashy, early Ronaldo was as fun as they come, but after bulking out he developed a deadly streak, netting 31 times in the 2007-08 Premier League season and helping them to Champions League success. He has since gone on to mark himself out as one of the all-time greats with Real Madrid, Juventus and Portugal.

Bebe (2010-2014) – MISS

From Ferguson's best to arguably his worst signing. Despite the Scot never seeing him play, Bebe is said to have arrived following a recommendation from Ferguson's former right-hand man, Carlos Queiroz. United reportedly paid Vitoria Guimaraes £7.5m for the attacker, but he immediately looked short of the required ability. He somehow managed to last four years at the club, including three loan spells. Most of his career since has been spent in Spain, and he's now playing for Rayo Vallecano in La Segunda.

Nani (2007-2015) – HIT

Few players polarised opinion quite like Nani during his time at United. Undoubtedly capable of the spectacular, he also had his fair share of underwhelming performances and could be infuriatingly frustrating. Like Ronaldo, Nani arrived from Sporting and it was initially said he struggled with the pressure due to comparisons with his United and Portugal team-mate. But in 2010-11 he established himself, producing some spell-binding performances to earn himself a place in the PFA Team of the Year and the United Players' Player of the Year award. Injuries then took their toll before leaving in 2015, going on to have something of a nomadic career ever since, though he has become Portugal's fourth-highest capped international.

Anderson (2007-2015) – MISS

Oh, what might've been. There's little doubt Anderson was immensely talented, but throughout his time with United there were concerns about his fitness and professionalism. He probably wasn't helped by being turned into something resembling a holding midfielder, given he thrived in a more attacking role previously, but he generally failed to live up to expectations. That's not to say he was hopeless – he amassed almost 200 appearances for the club, but given the promise he showed in his youth, he failed to reach his potential. Aged 31, he retired in September following a spell with Adana Demirspor in Turkey's second tier.

Victor Lindelof (2017-present) – HIT

After an unconvincing debut season following a move from Benfica potentially worth £38m, Lindelof has generally settled well at United and become a first-choice centre-back. Comfortable on the ball and a good reader of the game, the Sweden international is mostly dependable. Nevertheless, he's certainly not the perfect defender – he's not especially quick and does appear to struggle with physical forwards. So far, he can just about be regarded a 'hit', but United will surely be hoping for an improvement from him.

Marcos Rojo (2014-present) – MISS

Rojo always looked a somewhat puzzling addition, and those initial feelings have never really gone away. Technically able and versatile enough to play either centre-back or on the left, Rojo also relishes a physical tussle. But as something of a hot-head, Rojo has a tendency to be rash. Even Sporting fans were baffled when he joined United, who are said to have tried to sell him in almost every pre-season since buying the Argentina international. He now looks set to return to Estudiantes on loan.

Diogo Dalot (2018-present) – JURY'S OUT

Lauded as the best young full-back in the world by Jose Mourinho when he signed Dalot from his former club Porto in 2018, the Portugal Under-21 international is yet to prove that claim. He showed promise last season, with his ability on the ball and crossing earning acclaim, but he failed to hold down a spot at right-back despite United's concerning lack of quality in that position – Dalot's defensive capabilities proving unconvincing. The club then went out and splurged on Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Dalot, who has suffered numerous injuries, is undoubtedly talented, but a future as a regular at United might rely on him being converted into a winger.

Real Madrid and Bayern Munich face a struggle to compete with Premier League giants because of the financial muscle of top English clubs, admits Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

The Bayern chief executive says domestic television deals have created a major distortion in wealth between many teams in mainland Europe and those in England.

Speaking at the SPOBIS 2020 business event, Rummenigge also said there was "no need for change" when it comes to the Champions League after recent talk of expansion.

He spoke from experience when he pointed to how Premier League clubs have been able to attract the best players, the best coaches and create the most profitable academies.

And Rummenigge also stated how even 13-time European champions Real Madrid, whose president Florentino Perez he knows well, find it worrying to look at the money flooding into English teams.

"I think Florentino Perez's problem is the Premier League," Rummenigge said. "With Real Madrid he belongs to the world's most prominent club, because it's the most successful one and you have to admit it is also incredibly strong in terms of star power.

"However, his problem is the Premier League because it receives three times more money from domestic TV stations than all of us. No matter if it's Spain, Germany, France etc.

"That's why they have an undeniable advantage in the transfer market."

Rummenigge is full of admiration for how English teams have spent their money, by strengthening not only their squads but infrastructure too.

"The English clubs did well, one has to admit. In step one, they bought good players; in step two, they went out for good coaches, for instance Jurgen Klopp who has tremendous success at Liverpool; and in step three they gathered quality in management.

"They used their bigger income in comparison to other leagues to develop their quality. Their youth work has become a benchmark.

"And no matter in which country, or which city we play in, we all try to keep up with the English clubs, which is not easy."

Bayern sit second in the Bundesliga after 19 games of this season, a point behind leaders RB Leipzig, and are chasing an eighth consecutive title.

They last won the Champions League in the 2012-13 season, with Real Madrid triumphing four times since then, Barcelona winning in 2015 and Liverpool scooping last term's trophy.


The format of the Champions League is ripe for debate, with reports indicating the European Club Association is urging UEFA to include more rounds of fixtures in a push for expansion.

Rummenigge, though, as a major power broker with one of Europe's most powerful clubs, stressed there is no good reason for an overhaul.

"There is no need for change," he said.

"So far no one has come to me and said, 'We need to make drastic changes'. This radicalism that is being discussed at the moment is going too far.

"We need to respect the clubs and see if they are satisfied or if they are in need of change. How do the fans see it, how do the viewers on TV or even the TV stations?

"That's why I don't see a necessity. My press officer Stefan Mennerich has a nice saying - 'Don't fix, what ain't broken'. And the Champions League is everything but broken."

Manchester United's pursuit of Bruno Fernandes finally came to fruition when a deal was agreed with Sporting CP on Wednesday, and Red Devils fans should have cause for optimism.

The creative central midfielder is Old Trafford-bound, providing the formalities of a medical and personal terms can be completed, meaning Fernandes will finally join up with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side having been linked with a move since the close season.

Midfield has been a problematic area for United this term and would likely have been so even if Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay had not missed time through injuries.

The arrival of Portugal international Fernandes offers hope of going some way to addressing the problem, and here Opta data shows how Fernandes has performed for Sporting this season, compared to United's midfielders.


CHIPPING IN WITH GOALS AND ASSISTS

Scoring goals has been an issue for United this season, with their return of 36 from 24 Premier League games the lowest among the top six in the top flight.

Fernandes should help in this regard having contributed eight in 17 Primeira Liga appearances. United's best Premier League goals return from midfield comes from McTominay (three in 17 appearances), while Andreas Pereira has just one in 21 and Fred (20), Jesse Lingard (19), Juan Mata (15), Nemanja Matic (8) and Pogba (7) are yet to score – albeit the latter has spent a lengthy period on the sidelines.

The 25-year-old has also been a reliable supplier for his team-mates, with seven assists. Pereira has three and Mata two, the same number as Pogba. Fred, Lingard and Matic have yet to set up a team-mate.

In total his combined 15 goal involvements is 11 better than United's best of four from Pereira and McTominay.

Fernandes also has a minutes per goals involvement of 102. Pogba is United's best in that regard, again with the caveat of having played far fewer games, at 261. Mata chips in with an involvement every 314, with Pereira at 343 and McTominay 363.


WILLING TO SHOOT AND CHANCES CREATED GALORE

Solskjaer will certainly hope Fernandes can be a much-needed driving force from midfield and the signs are positive.

Fernandes has taken on 60 shots in the league for Sporting in 2019-2020, some 25 more than Pereira's return, which represents the most for United.

The likes of Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford – when he returns from a back injury – will also hope to thrive on Fernandes' service.

He has created 63 chances this term, an impressive 24 minutes per chance created. Conversely, the most a United midfielder has managed is 31 – again from Pereira, whose minutes-per-chance ratio is 44:1.

West Ham have completed the signing of Czech Republic midfielder Tomas Soucek from Slavia Prague.

Soucek, 24, has initially joined on loan, with West Ham holding an option to make the move permanent at the end of the season.

David Moyes' side confirmed the deal on Wednesday ahead of their home match with Premier League leaders Liverpool.

"We are delighted to welcome Tomas to West Ham United," Moyes said of Soucek, who has 25 international caps.

"He gives us a lot of different qualities, but most importantly he fits the profile of the player we want to bring to the club. He is young and hungry but with an established pedigree and proven talent."

Soucek has scored 12 goals this season, including strikes against Inter and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.

He netted on 18 occasions last season as he helped Slavia to a league and cup double on his way to being named the Czech top-flight's Player of the Year.

Moyes added: "He was captain of Slavia Prague, he's played as a defensive midfielder but he's scored a lot of goals as an attacking midfielder as well. 

"At the moment he ticks a lot of boxes. We need to give him the opportunity and time to settle in but we are confident he will prove to be a strong addition to the squad."

Soucek is West Ham's second signing of the January transfer window after the addition of goalkeeper Darren Randolph.

Manchester United have agreed a deal to sign Bruno Fernandes from Sporting CP, it was announced on Wednesday.

Fernandes' move to Old Trafford is subject to a medical and the agreement of personal terms.

Sporting posted a video on Twitter to say farewell to the 25-year-old Portugal international, who has cost United an initial €55million (£46.5m) and a further €25m (£21.1m) in add-ons.

The bonuses will see the Red Devils will pay €5m after Fernandes makes number of appearances, €5m for Champions League qualification and €15m based on individual objectes. Sporting will also be owed 10 per cent of the profit on any future sale.

Sporting's farewell clip was accompanied with a post that said: "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Thank you, captain. Forever a Lion."

Speculation linking Fernandes with a move to Old Trafford had intensified in recent months, but the prospective deal looked to have fallen through last week due to United reportedly refusing to meet Sporting's asking price.

However, a fee has duly been agreed between the two clubs following talk of late interest from Barcelona.

Fernandes is set to become United's first signing of the transfer window and provides Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a much-needed boost in midfield, an area where he has found himself short of options amid injuries to Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay.

Manchester United have agreed a deal to sign Bruno Fernandes from Sporting CP, it was announced on Wednesday.

Pablo Mari is convinced he has joined an Arsenal team who are on the cusp of achieving great success.

The Spaniard has arrived at Emirates Stadium during a time of upheaval, with head coach Mikel Arteta forging his way in the early weeks of his reign after succeeding Unai Emery.

Arsenal are unbeaten in their last six games but have drawn their previous three Premier League fixtures and sit, by their standards, in what is a lowly 10th place.

They are closer to the relegation zone than the top four, in terms of points, but Mari is convinced the Arteta era can be a successful period in the club's history.

For now, the centre-back is focused on helping the Gunners make immediate progress up the league table.

"When I spoke to my agent, it was a big thing that Arsenal were interested in me," said Mari, who has signed on loan from Flamengo. "This is one of the best clubs in the world, so I'm absolutely delighted to be joining. I'm really looking forward to playing in this jersey and helping my team.

"I'm a very professional player. I like working hard every day to achieve objectives."

He added: "I want to take it one day at a time and achieve big things at Arsenal.

"Right now I want to focus on the day-to-day side of things. I think we need to put the plans to one side for now because the most important thing is to take things one day at a time and focus on achieving short-term goals.

"We need to change the dynamic around the team, so the short-term objectives are the most important thing. As I've said, we have Mikel’s ideas, aligned with the club, and we need to perform very well to change things."

The 26-year-old was previously on Manchester City's books but did not make a breakthrough at the Etihad Stadium, spending loans with Girona, NAC Breda and Deportivo La Coruna before moving to Flamengo last July.

While in Brazil, he helped Flamengo to Campeonato Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores trophy success, and they went close to toppling Liverpool in the Club World Cup final.

He could face Liverpool again in May, by which time Jurgen Klopp's side are likely to have wrapped up the Premier League title.

Arsenal are streets adrift of Liverpool this season, but Mari, who could sign permanently at the end of the season, suggests the gap could soon close to the Merseyside table-toppers.

"Obviously they're in great form at the moment and they're among the best players in the world, but we also have a fantastic team with top players," Mari told Arsenal's official website.

"This is football and that's the way you have to look at it. You have to compete against every side, whether it's Liverpool or any other club in the world.

"I have a lot of faith in this great club, Arsenal, and I know we're going to do very well."

Christian Eriksen put his decision to leave Tottenham for Inter down to a desire to "try something new" after six and a half years in London.

Eriksen joined Spurs in 2013 from Ajax and enjoyed a productive spell with the club, swiftly establishing himself in the starting XI and becoming a key player.

During his time in the Premier League, Eriksen developed into one of English football's most acclaimed playmakers, with Manchester United and Real Madrid said to have been long-term admirers.

It became apparent Eriksen was not going to sign a new contract with Spurs during pre-season and, with speculation around his future, the Denmark international subsequently struggled for form.

He eventually sealed a move to Inter on Tuesday, with Spurs reportedly receiving €20million for him despite his contract expiring at the end of the season, and Eriksen explained his departure in a letter.

It read: "Dear Tottenham fans, I don't know where to start! I didn't have the time to say goodbye to everyone, even though it felt like I played a lot of games where everyone said and thought I would be gone the next day.

"I have so many unbelievable memories over the last six and a half years I was at Spurs. I enjoyed being at the training ground everyday and playing games in the stadium so much, but sometimes you just want to try something new!

"So, Spurs fans, it has been a pleasure to play at your club and hopefully we meet again in the future!"

Eriksen signed a five-and-a-half-year contract with Inter, while Spurs confirmed the permanent signing of Giovani Lo Celso from Real Betis essentially as his replacement almost straight after the Serie A club made their announcement.

Spurs then followed that up with the acquisition of Netherlands international winger Steven Bergwijn on Wednesday.

Arsenal have completed the signing of Pablo Mari on a loan deal with the option to make the move permanent at the end of the season.

Mari, 26, is Mikel Arteta's first signing since taking over as head coach in December after his switch from Flamengo was completed on Wednesday for a reported £4million loan fee.

The defender arrived in London with Arsenal technical director Edu on Saturday, who praised the Gunners' latest arrival.

"Pablo is an experienced player who will provide us with additional defensive quality," Edu said as the club confirmed the move.

"We have been monitoring Pablo's career for a while and we are very pleased to have reached agreement with Flamengo for him to join us initially until the end of our season.

"Together with Mikel and his coaching team, we are all looking forward to seeing Pablo in an Arsenal shirt."

Mari joined Manchester City in 2016 but never played for the first team, leaving for Flamengo last July having been sent out for loan stints at Girona, NAC Breda and Deportivo La Coruna.

At Flamengo, he was a key figure under Jorge Jesus, who led the Rio de Janeiro giants to the Campeonato Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores titles.

Mari also featured when Flamengo lost the Club World Cup final against Liverpool 1-0 after extra time.

Arsenal have been keen to bolster their defensive options following injuries to Calum Chambers, Kieran Tierney, Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac and have now landed their man.

"It's a massive opportunity for me to come to England, which is the best league in the world right now," said Mari.

"Being able to play in this league and having the opportunity to play for Arsenal is incredible, so I’m really looking forward to wearing the shirt as soon as possible.

"I want to help my team to win matches and give my fans something to celebrate."

Flamengo showed their gratitude to Mari as they confirmed his departure earlier in the day, saying: "The time has come for us to say goodbye.

"He is a defender who arrived at Flamengo to make his mark in our history with the Libertadores and the Brazilian Championship titles.

"Pablo Mari, thank you for everything."

Arsenal, unbeaten in six games across all competitions, sit 10th in the Premier League ahead of Sunday's away match against Burnley.

Arsenal have completed the signing of Pablo Mari on a loan deal with the option to make the move permanent at the end of the season.

Mino Raiola has furiously hit out at the attack on the home of Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward on Tuesday, saying it is inexcusable.

The agent of Paul Pogba and Erling Haaland has had multiple disagreements with Woodward over United's decisions in the transfer market but he is adamant the events have crossed the line of what is acceptable.

United vowed to ban for life any supporters who were involved in the attack on Woodward's property if they are found guilty of a criminal offence or of trespassing.

Widespread reports documented how a group of people threw flares at the house on the eve of United's EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Manchester City and Cheshire Police are investigating.

Fortunately, Woodward and his family were not present at the time and Raiola has called for an immediate end to such protests, however frustrated fans may be.

"If anyone has used me as a reason to create any anger towards Ed, they are totally in the wrong because my relationship with Ed is good, it is professional, and we don't always need to agree but that's normal," Raiola said in an interview with The Athletic.

"What happened last night is not normal. It is violence and I condemn any type of violence. 

"These guys are morons and this is criminal behaviour. These people need to be locked up and re-educated. This cannot be part of sport. This is sport. This is not a question of life and death, it is entertainment.

"Do you think people attack the house of Brad Pitt if he makes a bad movie? Or does Quentin Tarantino get death threats because his film was not good? There is no reason or excuse, none whatsoever for this and Ed Woodward has my full support and solidarity."

Raiola recently branded United "out of touch with reality" and has previously been criticised for making public comments about Pogba's potential future away from Old Trafford.

And his demands were not met this month as United pursued Salzburg striker Haaland, who ended up moving to Borussia Dortmund.

But the Italian added: "I am with Ed Woodward – I'm on his side in this. I disapprove of violence against players, trainers, supporters, anyone and especially this kind of violence and harassment.

"This cannot be happening to a man – going to his private house and menacing him and his family. Are we totally crazy? Football is not that important in life.

"We have to condemn it. There is no place for violence inside or outside the stadium, and especially when it involves your house and your family. This is inadmissible."

Steven Bergwijn says Jose Mourinho was his childhood inspiration as he targets winning the Champions League after completing his move to Tottenham from PSV.

The 22-year-old sealed his switch Spurs on Wednesday on a five-and-a-half-year contract in a deal reportedly worth around £27million.

Netherlands international Bergwijn has set himself ambitious goals as well as discussing the significance Mourinho had to him as he watched the game growing up.

"It's an amazing move for me, an amazing club," the winger, who will wear the number 23 shirt, said told Spurs TV.

"Just look around the training ground, it's amazing. It's an honour to be here. 

"I just spoke to the manager as well. When I was a young boy I looked up to a coach like Jose Mourinho, now I play for him.

"It's an honour for me to be here, a dream to play in the Premier League and I will give whatever I have, whatever I can bring, I will give it all for the club and for this team.

"I look from day to day. I want to be a good player here, score goals, give assists. I want to win the Champions League. I watched last season, the team went so far, and I hope this season also."

Spurs had already caught Bergwijn's eye last season when they got the better of PSV's rivals Ajax in the Champions League semi-finals.

He added: "I loved to see that you beat Ajax! This a big club that plays good football and that's what I like.

"You have to believe in yourself. I know what I can bring to this club and to this team, that's important. I will do what I can, and I know what I can do."

Bergwijn thrived for PSV last season, scoring 14 Eredivisie goals and setting up another 12 as the team finished second to Ajax. He has added five goals and 10 assists from 16 league outings in 2019-20.

Mourinho has already brought in Gedson Fernandes on loan with an option to buy this month and signed Giovani Lo Celso on a permanent deal on Tuesday after the sale of Christian Eriksen to Inter.

Unbeaten in four games across all competitions, Spurs host Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday.

Tottenham have completed the signing of Netherlands international Steven Bergwijn for a reported £27million.

The 22-year-old winger has signed a deal until 2025 having emerged as one of the Eredivisie's star players with PSV.

Bergwijn enjoyed a particularly impressive season last term, scoring 14 Eredivisie goals and setting up another 12 as PSV finished second to Ajax.

He had been strongly linked with a move away before the season started, with Bayern Munich and Sevilla said to be particularly keen, but no transfer materialised and he began the campaign with PSV.

However, with Spurs having lost Christian Eriksen to Inter, the club have made a move to bolster their creative options with the gifted Bergwijn.

Jose Mourinho has already brought in Gedson Fernandes on loan with an option to buy and signed Giovani Lo Celso on a pemanent deal as he seeks to guide Spurs to a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Spurs are sixth, six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, and still have aspirations in the FA Cup and Champions League. 

Next up is Sunday's visit of Manchester City in the top flight.

Tottenham have completed the signing of Netherlands international Steven Bergwijn for a reported £27million.

The 22-year-old winger has signed a deal until 2025 having emerged as one of the Eredivisie's star players with PSV.

Bergwijn enjoyed a particularly impressive season last term, scoring 14 Eredivisie goals and setting up another 12 as PSV finished second to Ajax.

He had been strongly linked with a move away before the season started, with Bayern Munich and Sevilla said to be particularly keen, but no transfer materialised and he began the campaign with PSV.

However, with Spurs having lost Christian Eriksen to Inter, the club have made a move to bolster their creative options with the gifted Bergwijn.

Chelsea head to top-four rivals Leicester City on Saturday aiming to close the eight-point gap on the team directly above them in the Premier League.

Leicester have overperformed under Brendan Rodgers this season and are on course to play Champions League football next term for the second time in three years.

Finishing above the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal in fourth would also be considered an achievement for Chelsea, who are enduring a period of transition.

Hampered by a transfer ban at the start of his first campaign at the Stamford Bridge helm, Frank Lampard's charges have had a mixed time of things in 2019-20.

A run of just four wins in 12 top-flight outings has seen Chelsea's youngsters lose ground on Leicester and they are now left looking over their shoulder.

But would the Blues be any better off had they turned to former Celtic boss Rodgers instead of iconic midfielder Lampard? We take a closer look with the help of Opta data.

RODGERS FINDS THE RIGHT BALANCE

Leicester's style of play has caught the eye since Rodgers was named as Claude Puel's successor in February 2019, the Foxes combining a vibrant attack with a solid defence.

The east Midlands side have scored three or more goals in six league games this term, including 5-0 and 9-0 wins over Newcastle United and Southampton respectively.

Chelsea, by comparison, have done so five times, but just twice since October's international break.

Leicester put four goals past West Ham last week and have scored 11 more than Chelsea overall this season, with the division's top scorer Jamie Vardy responsible for 17 of those.

Vardy has regularly made the headlines but his scoring stats would not be as impressive if not for the creative licence Rodgers has given to those playing around him.

Harvey Barnes and James Maddison have earned lots of plaudits, while Ayoze Perez has been directly involved in 11 goals since arriving - all three players providing something different.

And while Tammy Abraham has stepped up this season by scoring 13 times, Lampard recently admitted to being concerned by his side's low xG - expected goals - this term.

A talented striker alone will only take you so far. It is about getting the most out of the players available to you and setting out your side accordingly, as Rodgers has achieved.

DEFENSIVE STATS STAND UP

Likewise, a good attack alone is not enough for sides with top-four aspirations, and Rodgers has managed to tighten Leicester up at the back despite the loss of Harry Maguire.

Leicester have conceded 24 goals in 24 matches this season compared to 30 at the same stage 12 months ago when languishing down in 11th place.

Chelsea have shipped nine goals more in 2019-20 and have just five clean sheets this season - the same amount as Brighton and Hove Albion and three fewer than Watford.

Keeping out the opposition has been far less of an issue for the Foxes, whose tally of eight shutouts - including four in a row at one stage - is bettered only by Liverpool's nine.

Chopping and changing centre-backs has not helped Lampard, whereas Rodgers has tended to stick with Caglar Soyuncu and Jonny Evans.

And if proof was needed of Rodgers' ability to get more out of players look no further than Soyuncu, who struggled for minutes last term but has been immense this season.

IS LEICESTER'S FORM SUSTAINABLE?

Many expected 2016 title winners Leicester to drop off the pace as the season went on, particularly having made it to the latter stages of the EFL Cup.

Successive losses to Southampton and Burnley earlier this month suggested the wheels were about to come off, but they responded with an emphatic 4-1 win against West Ham.

That, incidentally, is only the second time Leicester have lost back-to-back league matches under Rodgers in his 11 months at the King Power Stadium.

Chelsea lost four games in five matches in the closing stages of 2019 and, understandably given the youngsters in their ranks, have lacked consistency over the last two months.

Ultimately, Leicester can lose this weekend's clash with Chelsea and still hold a comfortable five-point advantage on their fourth-placed opponents.

That alone is not enough to suggest Rodgers, who spent time coaching in Chelsea's academy, should have been given the job over the inexperienced Lampard.

But if nothing else, the Ulsterman has proved on his return to the Premier League that he is more than capable of managing one of the division's elite clubs.

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