Claudio Ranieri is ready to welcome the crowning moment of a “special” season when Leicester City host Everton in the Premier League on Saturday.
Tottenham’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea on Monday ensured Leicester became the 24th team to win the top-flight title in England, completing a remarkable campaign for a team who were at 5000-1 to lift the trophy back in August.
Leicester will be presented with the trophy after full-time at the King Power Stadium, giving them the chance to celebrate in front of their own fans before their final-day trip to last season’s title-winners, Chelsea.
And Ranieri, the eighth different manager to win the Premier League, is looking forward to the chance to celebrate with his entire first-team squad at the final home match of an unforgettable season.
“I enjoy all the season. From the beginning, I felt something special,” he said on Friday at a media conference, at which members of the press gave a champagne toast.
“All the players, all the clubs, all the managers work hard. But only one wins. This year, that’s me.
“Their professionalism was fantastic because some players don’t play but when I did call on them the players did a fantastic performance.”
Everton head to Leicester having lost just one of their last 12 league meetings with the champions, and their away form this season suggests they could cause an upset at the title party.
Roberto Martinez’s side have been impressive on their travels, losing just three of their last 18 – a record which is all the more notable given they have won just twice in 11 league games at home.
Martinez, who continues to face opposition from Everton fans who have seen their season derail since the turn of the year, has urged his players to deliver a strong showing against a side who are likely to play with “a certain swagger”.
“We’re facing a team who have played all season with an incredible tempo,” he said. “When you reach your aim you feel you can carry on with a real satisfaction, with no worries. So they’re probably in the best moment of confidence you could find them.
“They’re deserved winners of the league and will be playing with a certain swagger.”
Leicester will welcome back Jamie Vardy from suspension, but will be without Danny Drinkwater following his red card against Manchester United, while Robert Huth has been hit with a three-game ban for an altercation with Marouane Fellaini. Matty James could make his first appearance of the season after returning to training following a serious knee injury.
Gerard Deulofeu (knee) is out for Everton, with Phil Jagielka (hamstring) unlikely to feature, but Gareth Barry (groin) and Seamus Coleman (hamstring) could return.
Key Opta Stats:
– Sixty-eight per cent of the games Leicester City and Everton have played in the Premier League have been draws; the highest ratio of any fixture in the history of the competition that has been played more than 10 times.
– Claudio Ranieri’s side have won nine and lost none of their last 14 Premier League games at the King Power Stadium.
– Since their last home Premier League defeat where they conceded five against Arsenal, the Foxes have shipped just seven goals in 14 games at the King Power stadium, keeping nine clean sheets in that run.
– Leighton Baines could make his 350th Premier League appearance in this match. 277 of them have come for the Toffees, a haul only Tim Howard (353), Leon Osman (350) and David Unsworth (302) can better.
– Only Ipswich (1957-1962) have won each of the top three tiers in a shorter space of time than Leicester City (2009-2016).
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