By Andrew Warshaw
April 26 – The dream is almost a reality. One of the most miraculous achievements in English football history is within touching distance. Leicester City, 5000 to 1 outsiders at the start of the season to capture their first ever league title, will do exactly that if they win at Manchester United next weekend.
Even if they have to wait a further week or two, the final chapter in the most remarkable of fairytales – they narrowly avoided relegation last season – is a virtual certainty.
With three games left, Claudio Ranieri’s team, who have already pulled off an unexpected feat by qualifying for the Champions League for the first time, are seven points clear of Tottenham Hotspur. Only the most calamitous of implosions can stop them being crowned the most unfashionable of champions after Tottenham blew the chance to keep up the pressure by drawing at home with West Bromwich Albion on Monday night.
Mathematically the north London club, the youngest team in the Premier League who themselves have had a remarkable season under Mauricio Pochettino in their quest for a first league title since 1961, can still catch the Foxes, owned by Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. But the die is all but cast.
In most seasons, scoring the most goals and conceding the fewest would be enough to clinch the title. Both statistics belong to Tottenham but few would begrudge the hugely popular Ranieri, who has had a string of coaching jobs throughout Europe, picking up the first league title of his career.
Leicester may not play beautiful football. In fact there is an argument to suggest their style is a throwback to the past, often relying on unshakeable team spirit, dogged defending and feeding off opponents’ mistakes. But it’s certainly a beautiful story, one which even Ranieri admits may never happen again.
And now they are on the verge of leaving the usual suspects like Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester united and one of Ranieri’s former clubs, defending champions Chelsea, in their slipstream.
“Leicester is such a wonderful story and I don’t think it can happen anywhere else but in this country,” said West Brom manager Tony Pulis said after his side’s hugely significant draw at Tottenham which all but handed the title to Leicester, an achievement that will put the East Midlands club firmly on the map and leave the whole of Europe gasping in disbelief.
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