Leicester City can bring their fairy tale pursuit of glory to a suitably spectacular conclusion today by beating Premier League standard-bearers Manchester United at Old Trafford to capture the title.
Seven points clear of second-place Tottenham Hotspur with three games remaining, Leicester, the 5,000-1 outsiders, will be champions for the first time in their 132-year history if they prevail at the home of United, the dominant force of the Premier League era.
But although Leicester are now so close to the trophy that they can smell the silver polish, manager Claudio Ranieri is determined to make sure that his players do not lose sight of the task in hand.
“We have to fight a lot,” the Italian told a packed King Power Stadium media room during his pre-game press conference. “It will be a fantastic match, but tough. We have to stay calm and stay hungry. I want to see that. For the first time in the club’s life, they can win the title. It is unbelievable. It is history.”
Leicester show money isn't everything - Ranieri
After a sequence of nervy, narrow wins and a fraught 2-2 draw with West Ham United, the title swam into pin-sharp focus for Leicester this week when their breezy 4-0 victory over Swansea City was followed by Tottenham losing ground in a 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion.
It means that Leicester can drop points at United and still be crowned champions, as long as Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham do not better their result when they visit outgoing champions Chelsea a day later.
And with a home game against Everton followed by their own trip to Chelsea still to come, Leicester possess ample room for error.
But Louis van Gaal’s United side are far from ideal candidates for the role of sacrificial lambs on the Leicester title altar.
Leicester have Britain's bookmakers on run
Fifth-place United boast the strongest home record in the division, having lost only twice on their own patch all season, and have conceded only seven goals in their 17 home games to date.
Pellegrini wants Sterling to finish debut season on a high
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has challenged Raheem Sterling to end his first season with City on a high as the Champions League semi-finalists travel to Southampton.
Pellegrini will be without injured pair David Silva and Yaya Toure at St Mary’s and, although the former is expected to be out for up to three weeks with a hamstring injury, the City manager has not given up hope of the latter recovering in time to face Real in the Champions League semi-final second leg next week.
Ranieri to get £5 million bonus if Leicester win title
But in the meantime, Sterling is back after recovering from a lay-off with a groin injury and Pellegrini has challenged the inconsistent England winger to show why City paid £49 million to sign him from Liverpool last year.
“The problem is that when you arrive at this stage of the Champions League, I think it’s very important to arrive at your best moment, as an individual player and as a team,” he said. “It’s difficult for Raheem, to arrive at his best moment after one-and-a-half months when he doesn’t play. But I think he can give our team different options, depending on what he can do in his next game.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2016.
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