Friday, 29 April 2016

Leicester on brink of fitting Premier League glory at Manchester United

Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri gives his thoughts on Tottenham dropping two crucial points in the EPL title race. Premier League Spotlight previews the weekend's fixtures and highlights five key points to keep an eye on.

Weekend fixtures

Saturday
Everton vs. Bournemouth
Newcastle vs. Crystal Palace
Stoke vs. Sunderland
Watford vs. Aston Villa
West Brom vs. West Ham
Arsenal vs. Norwich
Sunday
Swansea vs. Liverpool
Man Utd vs. Leicester
Southampton vs. Man City
Monday
Chelsea vs. Tottenham
1. Will Leicester seal glory at the home of England's most dominant club?
Leicester City are so close to glory that they have the sweet scent of it in their nostrils. Win at Manchester United on Sunday and the 2015-16 Premier League title is theirs. No matter how many times you hear that, Leicester's feat still has a feeling of the surreal. But this is where we find ourselves after the Foxes' 4-0 thumping of Swansea City was followed by Tottenham's 1-1 draw at home to West Brom on Monday night. The result against Swansea was yet another example of manager Claudio Ranieri calmly guiding his team through supposedly troubled waters. Jamie Vardy's suspension was anything but the disaster it was anticipated to be.
Vardy, scorer of 22 league goals this season, will again be missing for the trip to Old Trafford. It was he who opened the scoring in November's 1-1 draw between Leicester and United. A repeat of that stalemate could still be enough for the Foxes, if Tottenham fail to win at Chelsea on Monday. Perhaps in this fixture Ranieri will feel Vardy's absence, because as the away side their counter-attacking game will be more relied upon. Yet, considering how the season has gone, it would be of little surprise if Ranieri still found a way to defeat Louis van Gaal's side, who themselves need a win to keep their top-four hopes alive. Whatever the means, this has the makings of quite the moment as Leicester gear up to realise their dream at the home of a club who have lifted 13 Premier League titles.

2. Did Tottenham really choke in the title race?

Tottenham have lost four of their 35 Premier League games this season.
You could not move for schadenfreude in the wake of Tottenham's 1-1 draw against West Brom on Monday night. Spurs had, apparently, bottled it and gifted the title to Leicester. Granted, this was a must-win game, but the circumstances were a side running out of steam, not a weak and late capitulation. There must also come a point when Leicester's impending success is put down to their excellence rather than the shortcomings of Spurs. For Tottenham not to be able to compete with a team who have lost three times all season and have won seven of their last nine is hardly embarrassing. Perhaps those pointing and guffawing might want to consider whether their club have at least pushed the leaders up until matchday 36. Tottenham are a club going places, boasting a young and talented squad overseen by an exciting and inspiring 44-year-old manager in Mauricio Pochettino.
3. How will Arsenal cope amid a toxic Emirates Stadium atmosphere?

Arsenal could finish as high as second or as low as seventh with three matches to play.
To say the natives at Arsenal are restless would be a significant understatement. A growing number are spitting bile. Indeed, a coordinated protest is planned in Saturday's match against Norwich, and, as the face of the club for 20 years, manager Arsene Wenger can be expected to bear the brunt of the toxicity. The club can finish on no more than 73 points this season, if they win their remaining three matches, and that total would see them two points worse off than last campaign. There is the cold evidence of the Gunners going backwards, rather than standing still as has been their usual, frustrating way. For now, Wenger's focus will be securing Champions League football for next season, before a significant postmortem in the summer. To get back on track they must display more fight than what was on show in the 1-1 draw at Sunderland.
4.  Can Sunderland capitalise on Stoke's leaky defence?

Stoke have won one of their last seven games.
Stoke City have had an erratic season that is in danger of tailing off and thus deflating supporters' enthusiasm ahead of the summer. Mark Hughes' team have conceded four goals in each of their last three matches. While this sequence has come in the absence of Jack Butland, following a serious knee injury suffered by the superb goalkeeper, surely such a porous run cannot lie solely at door of his replacements, Jakob Haugaard and Shay Given. Whatever the explanation -- midtable motivation found wanting? -- Sam Allardyce's Sunderland, in particular Jermain Defoe, might sense an opportunity to put more than just goal difference between them and 18th-placed Norwich.
5. Should Quique Sanchez Flores remain in charge of Watford?

Quique Sanchez Flores has won 15 of his 40 matches in charge of Watford.
On the face of it, Quique Sanchez Flores has done a very impressive job at Watford. The club -- who gained promotion from the Championship last season under the man Flores replace last summer, Slavisa Jokanovic -- have seen off relegation without any late-season drama and they also reached the semifinals of the FA Cup. Look deeper, though, and the Hornets' form as nosedived since Christmas. They have won three and lost 10 of their last 17 top-flight matches. Watford have stressed that no decision has been made on Flores' future, despite reports to the contrary, and that any call will be made once the campaign is over. Maybe whether or not Flores can get a tune out of his players in their three remaining games, starting at Liverpool on Sunday, will determine his fate.

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