LONDON: Leicester will complete an “incredible” Premier League title triumph and be crowned champions of England for the first time in their history if they beat Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Tottenham Hotspur, the only team who can deny the Midlands club the title, lost ground with a 1-1 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion on Monday that meant they were seven points behind with three games left to play.
Even if Leicester, 5,000/1 rank outsiders in pre-season to win the Premier League after narrowly avoiding relegation last term, slip up at Old Trafford the Foxes will still be in pole position to finish the season as champions.
“There’s still work to do but, in most people’s eyes, it is done and dusted,” former Leicester defender Matt Elliott told BBC Radio Five.
“Leicester can win the title at Old Trafford… it sounds incredible. I’m covering it on the radio and there are three of us going up in the car. If they win, it won’t be me driving home.”
This season has seen Midlands club Leicester leave established Premier League giants such as Manchester City, Arsenal and defending champions Chelsea well behind them.
Owned by Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Leicester have already qualified for the Champions League for the first time in a season where only the three promoted clubs — Watford, Norwich and Bournemouth — started at longer odds to win the Premier League.
Foxes manager Claudio Ranieri, who replaced sacked former Leicester boss Nigel Pearson in pre-season, was derided as the ‘Tinkerman’ when he first made his name in English football as Chelsea manager from 2000-04.
But under the Italian’s guidance the likes of Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez, named last week as the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year, and leading scorer Jamie Vardy have enjoyed the best seasons of their careers, with the Foxes all-action game proving hard to resist in a campaign where they’ve lost just three league games to date.
When Leicester appointed Ranieri, lifelong Foxes fan and former England striker Gary Lineker, who started his career with his hometown club, tweeted: “Claudio Ranieri, really?”
Lineker subsequently admitted: “Oh how wrong I was, how wonderfully, spectacularly, blissfully wrong.”
The only downside for Leicester’s best-known supporter is that it looks as if he may have to make good on a promise to present the BBC’s flagship Match of the Day football programme in his underpants if the Foxes win the title.
“I’ve kind of said I’ll have to do it,” Lineker told the Radio Times magazine in an interview published Tuesday. “I’ve told them many times, ‘Please tell me I can’t do it’.
“When I sent the tweet in December I categorically knew there was zero chance that (Leicester) would win.”
Leicester will be without Vardy at Old Trafford after the Football Association gave him an additional one-match ban on Tuesday for improper conduct following his red card against West Ham.
But they were without the England forward last weekend as well and still beat Swansea City 4-0. It’s been that sort of season for Leicester.