Sport Football Leicester City set to pull off football’s greatest upset
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Leicester City set to pull off football’s greatest upset

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The English Premier League is not the preserve of dreams.

It’s not policed by any salary cap. Equalisation is something only seen on the stereo in the team bus.

It’s the survival of the financially fittest.

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Sure, some lightly regarded teams have made great starts to a campaign – like when Hull City sat on top of the mountain nine games in to the 2008-09 season, with away wins against Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle United.

But as the winter set in, and the grind of the world’s toughest football league began to wear them down, the dream began to fray and quickly became a nightmare.

Mastermind: manager Claudio Ranieri. Photo: Getty
Mastermind: manager Claudio Ranieri. Photo: Getty

Hull finished 17th, surviving relegation by just one point.

To perform consistently, week-in, week-out for nine months, is something that – until this season – has been the domain of the big four.

Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City are the only clubs to have won the English Premier League since its inception in 1992, apart from one season when a cashed-up Blackburn Rovers upset the apple cart in the 1994-95 campaign.

That just serves to show how truly rare, remarkable and romantic Leicester City’s charge this season has been.

With three games remaining, they lead second-placed Tottenham by seven points, and victory at Manchester United’s Old Trafford on Sunday evening (11.05pm AEST kick-off) would see them win the title.

Even if they don’t win, a Tottenham defeat at Chelsea on Tuesday morning will seal their success.

And, of course, if that doesn’t happen, there’s still two more matches remaining.

The incredible rise

Five years ago, Leicester City was a club mired in the third tier of English football.

They were promoted to the Premier League for the 2014-15 season, on the back of consistent funding from Thai billionaire and owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

But they seemed doomed for relegation after picking up just 17 points from their first 26 matches last term, form that saw them rooted to the foot of the table.

An incredible seven wins in their last nine matches – from a side only just promoted – saw them escape relegation.

That was why it was such a surprise when manager Nigel Pearson was sacked before the 2015-16 season.

After all, he had masterminded ‘The Great Escape’.

Bookies quickly reacted to Pearson’s exit, making Leicester 5000-1 to win the Premier League title.

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Riyad Mahrez has shot to stardom this season. Photo: Getty

But Pearson’s replacement, Italian Claudio Ranieri, has led his side to possibly the most remarkable season in English football – ever.

Striker Jamie Vardy is leading the scoring charge with 22 – including an incredible spell of 13 goals in 11 consecutive games to break Ruud van Nistelrooy’s Premier League record.

But he’s far from a one-man band, with Algerian attacker Riyad Mahrez winning the PFA player of the year this week.

Centre-backs Wes Morgan and Robert Huth have been outstanding in defence, and N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater have led the way in midfield.

For a small town in the east Midlands of England, it would be a stunning triumph to take the league trophy away from the recent power centres of London and Manchester.

Former Leicester goalkeeper Paul Henderson, now shot-stopper for Sydney Olympic in the New South Wales NPL, says the whole town would be jumping.

“It’s absolutely fantastic, not only for the club but for the town,” Henderson told The New Daily.

“They’ve had a remarkable season.

“It just goes to show that with quality players and a great manager that these things are possible.

“When I was there, regardless of whether we were in the Championship (second tier) or League One (third tier), there was always a good solid crowd there following the team.

“They supported you through thick and thin.

“I think if you don’t go for one of the big four teams, you’re hoping that Leicester do it.”

 

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