Leicester City clinched the Premier League title without playing on Monday, eight months after setting out for a new season with expectations only of survival following desperate battle with relegation in 2014-15.
Claudio Ranieri’s side have become the story of the sporting world since then after what began as little more than early promise and a recurring insistence from the Italian that winning the title outright would never be a realistic objective.
But Leicester’s modesty rarely threatened to curtail their pursuit of the title – losing just three of the 36 games needed for them to secure the championship, as well as winning more games than any other side.
Here, we take a look at the five matches that paved the way for the unlikeliest of Premier League champions:
Newcastle United 0-3 Leicester City – St James’ Park, November 21
After a surprisingly fast start to the campaign, Leicester’s win at St James’ Park took them top of the table after 13 games in what was the first real statement of intent on behalf of Ranieri’s side.
Jamie Vardy opened the scoring for the Foxes on the stroke of half-time, in what was his 10th straight league game on the scoresheet. The strike saw him equal what was then Premier League record of scoring in consecutive games, before he broke it the following week at home to Manchester United.
Second-half goals from Leonardo Ulloa and Shinji Okazaki would round out an eventual 3-0 win for the Foxes, as they marched on into the Christmas period.
The game would also symbolise the most dramatic evidence of Leicester’s turnaround, having sat rock-bottom of the Premier League at the same stage of the previous season.
Leicester City 2-1 Chelsea – King Power Stadium, December 14
Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side travelled north in December in a precarious state, but still bearing the make-up of a team who had won the Premier League so convincingly the previous season.
Leicester went ahead just after the half-hour mark thanks to Vardy, while a piece of individual brilliance from Riyad Mahrez in the early stages of the second half would put the game beyond Chelsea, despite a late consolation from substitute Loic Remy.
The result would see Mourinho sacked by Chelsea a few days later, while Leicester’s part in the dismantling of the previous title-winning group would see their own table-topping credentials taken seriously for the first time.
Tottenham 0-1 Leicester City – White Hart Lane, January 13
Having drawn 0-0 at home to AFC Bournemouth in the game preceding their trip to White Hart Lane, a win in the capital was pivotal in order for Leicester – who had not won any of their previous three games – to stay in contention near the top of the table.
Spurs had 21 shots on the day, twice as many as Leicester’s 10, but an 83rd-minute header by Robert Huth dug the Foxes out of a game that many perceived them as fortunate to have escaped with all three points.
In hindsight, the result at White Hart Lane would prove significant given that Spurs would later emerge as their main rivals for the Premier League crown and were within five points of Leicester’s lead on more than one occasion down the stretch.
Manchester City 1-3 Leicester City – Etihad Stadium, February 6
Just three points separated Leicester and Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table before kick-off, meaning a win for either would have significant connotations on the shape of the title race.
And though the game was billed as such, Ranieri’s side came out of the blocks with little fear at the Etihad, stealing a march inside five minutes thanks to Huth’s scrambled finish past Joe Hart.
By the hour mark, Leicester had established a dominant 3-0 lead following a stunning strike from Mahrez and an unlikely second for Huth. The Foxes were already daring to dream by the time Sergio Aguero nodded home an 87th-minute consolation.
With a five-point lead opened up over Spurs and a six-point lead on City following the emphatic win, Leicester would not relinquish top spot in the Premier League for the rest of the campaign.
Leicester City 4-0 Swansea City – King Power Stadium, April 24
With the title edging ever closer, the Foxes persisted to show few signs of nerves after their controversial draw with West Ham in their previous match had threatened to open up the race.
Despite having to face Swansea without suspended top scorer Vardy, Leicester rallied to inflict their largest margin of victory in the campaign – decimating the Welsh side by four goals as Mahrez, Leonardo Ulloa (two) and Marc Albrighton struck.
And once Spurs were held at home by West Brom the following day, Leicester’s route to the title was clearer than ever, meaning their stalemate at Manchester United and Tottenham’s 2-2 draw against Chelsea sealed league glory.
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