Leicester City’s fairy-tale challenge for the Premier League is no more. Now it is a realistic challenge, no more Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel stuff, just sheer reality.
The Foxes maintained their position at the top of the table with a 2-0 win over Liverpool on Tuesday night, courtesy of a Jamie Vardy brace.
Claudio Ranieri’s men are trading blows with the big-spending Manchester City in true Rocky style, like they have no fear and no intention of disappearing into the night quietly.
A remarkable transformation
It will be one of the greatest football stories of all time if underdogs Leicester win the title. It will be a win for football over the sheer financial resources of City.
People may think that it could be a one-off, but it seems that spending big money is not enough to guarantee a team the Premier League title anymore. The arrival of the great Pep Guardiola at Manchester City in the summer will make it far more difficult for teams to challenge for the title, so this is likely to be Leicester’s and other teams best chance of winning the league.
Leicester have gone from a team fighting for their top-flight lives to Premier League title challengers in less than a year. Maybe Louis van Gaal or Jurgen Klopp should be ringing Mr Ranieri for some tips on challenging for the Premier League title.
Ranieri has been in this position before with Chelsea, but could not quite his team over the finish. It would be an incredible achievement to win the Premier League title with the Foxes, having failed to win it Chelsea.
A very good team
Leicester are not top of the table by accident. It is not a fluke that the Foxes are right up there. They are a good team, from ‘keeper Kasper Schmeichel in goal right up to the energetic Vardy up front and everybody in-between.
Their togetherness and team spirit was visible last season, when the Foxes looked dead and buried, yet still beat the odds to survive in the Premier League. In the last few months of the season the Foxes showed their quality and fight to beat the drop.
Leicester’s rise to the summit has been courtesy of clever transfer dealing and good management. Players who had failed to impress at other clubs are suddenly fulfilling their potential.
The likes of Marc Albrighton and Danny Drinkwater that failed to make the grade at other Premier League clubs have been big hits with the Foxes, especially this season.
Leicester does not have the best individual players, but they are more than the sum of their parts and that is the exact definition of a team. Boss Claudio Ranieri deserves immense credit for his team’s position this season. He was often the butt of jokes as Chelsea boss, but he has done an exceptional job at the King Power Stadium.
Test of the staying power
Leicester face a real test of their staying power in the next two games, as the Foxes visit title rivals Manchester City and Arsenal. These two games could be season defining for the side from the Midlands.
Victories in those big games would mean the Foxes stretching their lead at the top of the table. However defeats would not see Ranieri’s side drop completely out the title race, although it could dent the momentum that the Foxes have built up this season.
Despite expectations that the side from the Midlands would slip-up, their form does not seem to be abating with more than half of the season gone.
Leicester are still underdogs for the Premier League title at odds of 9/2, which puts them behind both favourites Manchester City and Arsenal in the betting.
However if the Foxes pick-up positive results in their next two top-flight games, then those odds will be reduced again and Leicester will be considered far more realistic contenders for the title.
Leicester have been defying the odds all season long and at the moment I would not back against the Foxes getting their fairy-tale ending. I am sure the majority of neutral fans will be cheering on Ranieri’s side, as they have been underdogs all season and everybody loves an underdog.
Will Leicester’s fairy-tale season end in a happy ending?