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Drinkwater and Kante essential to Leicester's success this season

The midfield duo has been prolific this year, seemingly out of nowhere, and are being rewarded for their efforts.

Tony Marshall/Getty Images

At the end of last season, Leicester City's midfield was left in a state of doubt.

Esteban Cambiasso left the club and the duo of Dean Hammond and Andy King playing in a holding central midfield role left fans lacking confidence.

However, the tenured Danny Drinkwater filling the central midfield role gave reason for hope. He was not the star midfielder Leicester craved, but his experience and skill was satisfactory for the Foxes.

With low expectations for the season, Leicester City began making moves in the transfer market. Defender Christian Fuchs and striker Shinji Okazaki were both acquired from the Bundesliga, while Swiss national team captain and defensive midfielder Gokhan Inler was bought from Napoli.

But in the most unsung move of the offseason, a French defensive midfielder by the name of N'Golo Kante was acquired from Ligue 1 side Caen for a small fee.

Neither Kante nor Drinkwater had ever received an international call-up, while Inler was an established presence for Switzerland. But the Swiss star soon fell out of favor, making way for the duo of Kante and Drinkwater to start in central midfield.

Despite both player never scoring a Premier League goal, Kante and Drinkwater were entrusted with the most important job of not only creating plays, but preventing opponents from making them as well.

To say the duo has surpassed expectations would be an understatement. Not only are Drinkwater and Kante having career seasons, but Leicester is in the midst of completing the greatest single season turnaround in English history.

Kante found the back of the net for his first goal in a 2-1 win over Watford back in November. He has picked up three assists over the season as well, and has attempted 17 shots.

His efforts this season have drawn the attention of some of Europe's best clubs, as well as the French National Team, earning Kante his first international call-up during the March international break.

On March 25, Kante and his France side took the field at Amsterdam ArenA against the Netherlands. At the start of the second half, Kante replaced Lassana Diarra in central midfield en route to a 3-2 victory on the road.

The following Tuesday, N'Golo Kante made his first start with France against Russia. Eight minutes after kickoff, Kante was on the scoresheet netting his first international goal. He also attempted three shots and played the full 90 minutes.

As host nation, making the France squad at this summer's European Championships will certainly be an honor. If Kante continues to perform the way he has all season, he could very well see playing time at the Euros.

Kante has also been the subject of various transfer rumors, linking him with clubs like Chelsea, Juventus, and Real Madrid. But the Frenchman remains focused on the here-and-now, insisting he is poised to help Leicester win the title by ignoring any speculation, saying they are only rumors.

His partner, Danny Drinkwater, on the other hand, looks to be sticking around Leicester for quite some time. The midfielder has been with the club since its days in the English Championship and has been a major part of the Foxes meteoric rise.

Drinkwater scored his first top flight goal in a 3-0 win over Stoke City in January. The Englishman has also recorded four assists this season and attempted 33 shots.

Much like his midfield partner Kante, Drinkwater's superb performance has earned him an international call-up with England.

A former Manchester United youth product, Drinkwater was an unused substitute during his first match between England and Germany. From the bench, Drinkwater saw his English side complete an unprecedented comeback in the final half-hour against their archrival, winning 3-2.

The 26-year-old was rewarded with his first cap on Tuesday, earning a start against the Netherlands. Drinkwater played 85 minutes in a 2-1 loss to the Dutch, attempting one shot and suffering a foul.

With fellow Leicester City player Jamie Vardy a shoe-in for a major role with England, Drinkwater also feels as if he should be considered in the starting lineup this summer.

With seven games remaining in the season, the Foxes sit five points clear at the top of the league. There is still work left to be done, but with Drinkwater and Kante in the middle, Leicester's dramatic hopes of a first-ever Premier League title are certainly looking good.