Leicester face nervy test as Spurs’ shadow looms
The Premier League title is tantalisingly close for Leicester City but like all the best fairytales there are usually some frights before everyone lives happily ever after.
When Claudio Ranieri’s merry bunch beat Sunderland 2-0 on April 10 they were 10 points clear at the top for a couple of hours until chasing Tottenham Hotspur beat Manchester United.
Last weekend things took a sinister turn when top scorer Jamie Vardy was sent off at home to West Ham United and Leicester needed a dubious last-gasp penalty to draw 2-2.
Tottenham’s 4-0 thrashing of Stoke City on Monday narrowed the gap to five points with four games to play.
Vardy will discover on Thursday whether he will receive further punishment after being charged with improper conduct following his reaction to his red card.
That is why when Leicester kick off against Swansea City on Sunday, 24 hours before Tottenham host West Bromwich Albion, there will be sweaty palms aplenty at the King Power Stadium.
Leicester have ground out points in recent weeks but with 22-goal striker Vardy suspended against Swansea after playing in their last 47 Premier League games, what looks like the perfect home fixture against a side virtually assured of avoiding relegation suddenly looks fraught with danger.
Tottenham’s surge is turning the screw ever so slightly and Leicester fans have been reminded of 1963 when the side known as The Ice Kings had the old first division title in their grasp before losing their last four games.
Ranieri, who will probably play Leonardo Ulloa in the Vardy role this weekend, has told them not to worry.
“We were worried at the start of the season when we needed to get to 40 points. Now we enjoy,” he said.
“Never do I speak to my players about the gap, blah, blah, blah. Everything is in our hands. If we fight and we win then ok. If the other team, it could be Arsenal, Tottenham, I don’t know who, are better than us and win the title, well done.”
Tottenham, who have scored the most goals and conceded the fewest this season, are relishing the chase and will be ready to pounce should Leicester slip.
Harry Kane, who leads the scoring charts with 24 goals, said playing after their title rivals was no problem.
“Watching all the football over the weekend and having to wait until Monday night to play gets you ready, gets you firing,” said the England striker.
“We’ve got to win all our games. We want to win all four of them and then we will go from there.”
The battle to avoid joining Aston Villa in the Championship also continues, with Sunderland able to climb out of the bottom three if they beat Arsenal at home on Sunday.
Resurgent Newcastle United will also try and take advantage of fourth from bottom Norwich City not playing, although they face a difficult assignment at Liverpool on Saturday.