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Ndidi, Iheanacho return to Premier League

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Super Eagles duo Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho have officially secured automatic promotion to the Premier League with Leicester City. The duo have both played important roles in the Foxes’ swift return to the English top-flight following their relegation last season.

Leicester City’s nine-year stay in the Premier League came to an end in the 2022/23 campaign after they finished 18th. While the club lost some of its key players as a result of being relegated, they have nevertheless gained promotion to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

Youri Tielemans, Caglar Soyuncu, Daniel Amartey, Nampalys Mendy, Ryan Bertrand, Ayoze Perez and Tete were among the senior players to depart before the start of the season, but Jamie Vardy, Iheanacho and Ndidi decided to stay to lead the club’s promotion bid.

After 44 rounds of matches in the English Championship, Leicester’s return to the Premier League has now been confirmed following rivals Leeds United’s shocking defeat at the hands of Queens Park Rangers (QPR) on Friday.

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Leeds went into the game against QPR in second position and four points behind leaders Leicester. However, after losing the match and having played one more game than the Foxes, it is now mathematically impossible for Maresca’s side to be usurped from the automatic promotion places.

Leicester have had an impressive season in the Championship. They opened a 12-point lead midway through the season before a surprising slump in form saw them drop to second place just over a month ago.

After losing in back-to-back games against Millwall and Plymouth Argyle at the start of April, the Foxes arrested their slump with statement victories against West Bromwich Albion and Southampton, with Ndidi scoring in both matches.

The Nigeria midfielder opened the scoring in the 2-1 win over West Brom last week, and was the scorer of Leicester’s second goal in their 5-0 thrashing of Southampton on Tuesday. The Foxes are now guaranteed to finish in the top two of the Championship – the automatic promotion spots – even before they play their home game against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

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With just two matches left to the end of the season, Maresca’s side also now have a unique chance of winning the Championship. Should Leicester win against Blackburn Rovers and Ipswich Town fail to win their game against Hull City this weekend, the Foxes will be crowned champions of the Championship as the cherry on top of their successful promotion.

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Meanwhile, Ndidi and Iheanacho have both played key roles for Leicester in their return to the Premier League. Although the duo have been linked with a move away, they have nevertheless shown great commitment to helping the club return to the English top-flight.

Iheanacho has been blighted by injuries, leading to a reduced role in the team, often coming on as a substitute. The former Manchester City forward subsequently lost his starting spot following the rise of Abdul Fatawu Issahaku and Stephy Mavididi, but has still managed 25 appearances in all competitions this season while contributing six goals and three assists.

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Ndidi’s importance to Leicester’s promotion can equally not be overstated, with the midfielder seamlessly adapting to his new advanced role alongside Harry Winks. While Leicester’s slump midway through the season coincided with Ndidi’s absence due to injury, he returned to contribute to the club’s strong finish to the season.

The former Genk anchorman has been involved in six goals and six assists in all competitions this season, and has been a mainstay in the team when fit. Both Ndidi and Iheanacho could be leaving Leicester at the end of the season, but they could yet add the Championship title to the FA Cup and Community Shield that they’ve previously won with the Foxes.

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