English Premiership

Leicester 'won't stop believing'

2016-02-04 11:00
Danny Drinkwater (Getty Images)

London - As Jamie Vardy's breathtaking shot plunged into the Liverpool net on Tuesday, the thought dawned on Leicester City's Premier League rivals that their title challenge might just be for real.

Leicester were top at Christmas, but a run of three games without a win prised them from the summit, seemingly fulfilling the prophecy that the Foxes would not stay the course over the season's second half.

They have confounded expectations once again, however, with back-to-back victories over Stoke City and Liverpool taking them three points clear at the top of the table with 14 games remaining.

As the games pass and the wins continue to flow, Leicester find themselves closing in on what would be the most extraordinary English title triumph since Brian Clough inspired Nottingham Forest to glory in 1978.

Forest, who would go on to win two European Cups, had only been promoted the previous season, but while Leicester spent last season in the top flight, their 12-month rise from bottom to top has been just as dramatic.

"I think if Leicester win it this year it will be a greater achievement (than Forest's)," said Robbie Savage, the former Leicester midfielder turned television pundit.

"We have got teams like (Manchester) United, who have spent £250m and might not finish in the top four. If Leicester win it, it would be unbelievable."

Only five teams have been champions of England in the post-1992 Premier League era - Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City - but Leicester's emergence is bang on trend.

The 2015-16 season has seen old orthodoxies exposed, with smaller teams, emboldened by the proceeds from the Premier League's huge television deals, punching above their weight.

Watford, Stoke City, West Ham United and Southampton have all bloodied the big boys' noses, but it is Claudio Ranieri's Leicester, scrappers supreme, who are leading the new wave.

And they have done it on a relative shoestring - Vardy signing from non-league Fleetwood Town for £1m, Riyad Mahrez from Le Havre for 400,000 and N'Golo Kante, one of the season's revelations, from Caen for £5.6 million.

ONE TOUCH PASSING

Summer in England has turned to autumn, autumn to winter and spring is now approaching, but Leicester's approach remains unchanged: tight defence, minimal possession, spring-mounted counter-attacks.

Vardy's superb first goal in the 2-0 win over Liverpool was largely his own work, but its construction captured Leicester's modus operandi in microcosm, the England striker sprinting onto Mahrez's pass from deep and lashing a shot over a startled Simon Mignolet.

A sequence later in the game revealed the breezy heights of Leicester's confidence as Vardy, Mahrez, Kante, Danny Simpson, Danny Drinkwater and Shinji Okazaki combined in a dizzying one-touch passing move that left Liverpool's defenders chasing shadows.

"This is team spirit at its highest. We won't stop believing," said midfielder Drinkwater.

"We're staying on the ground, but if we carry on the way we are then why not have the belief (to win the league)? It would go down in history."

Leicester have lost only twice to date this season - 5-2 at home to Arsenal in September, 1-0 at Liverpool in December - and have beaten champions Chelsea, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, Stoke and Liverpool along the way.

Their next two fixtures would appear to represent the acid test of their title hopes, as they travel to second-place Manchester City on Saturday before visiting Arsenal the following weekend.

But whereas City and Arsenal must juggle their resources due to involvement in other competitions - three in City's case, two in Arsenal's - Leicester can afford to be completely single-minded.

Out of both domestic cups and unconcerned by European distractions, the league is their only focus.

Even if they miss out on the title, with a 10-point lead over fifth-place United, the consolation of Champions League qualification already looks highly plausible.

Leicester are making history. They may yet achieve sporting immortality.

NEXT ON SPORT24X

What To Read Next

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Fixtures
Tuesday, 12 December 2017
Burnley v Stoke City, Turf Moor 21:45
Crystal Palace v Watford, Selhurst Park 22:00
Huddersfield Town v Chelsea, The John Smith's Stadium 22:00
Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Swansea City v Manchester City, Liberty Stadium 21:45
Newcastle United v Everton, St. James' Park 21:45
Southampton v Leicester City, St. Mary's Stadium 21:45
Liverpool v West Bromwich Albion, Anfield 22:00
West Ham United v Arsenal, London Stadium 22:00
Manchester United v AFC Bournemouth, Old Trafford 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton & Hove Albion, Wembley Stadium 22:00
Saturday, 16 December 2017
Leicester City v Crystal Palace, King Power Stadium 14:30
Stoke City v West Ham United, Bet365 Stadium 17:00
Arsenal v Newcastle United, Emirates Stadium 17:00
Chelsea v Southampton, Stamford Bridge 17:00
Brighton & Hove Albion v Burnley, The American Express Community Stadium 17:00
Watford v Huddersfield Town, Vicarage Road Stadium 17:00
Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur, Etihad Stadium 19:30
Logs
Team P W PTS
Previous Results

Date Home Team Result Away Team
Vote

Who will claim the Premier League title at the end of the 2017/18 season?

 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
English Premiership flutter

Take Sport24's "expert" tips at your peril...

Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter

Featured

The 2017/18 Absa Premiership season is under way. Can Bidvest Wits defend their title? Will Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates emerge victorious? Or will the bookies' favourites, Mamelodi Sundowns, taste success for a record eighth time? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs
 

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.