Leicester City’s victory over Manchester City at the Etihad last weekend, was the final nail on the coffin which went to prove that Leicester City has what it takes to lift the EPL title this season. The Foxes’ richly-deserved 3-1 victory in the battle of the top two at Etihad Stadium put them five points clear at the top of the Premier League.
The way that match played out, Leicester looked like champions already. It’s been an incredible season for them, and they have managed to turn even the most hardcore non-believers into fans. It was an emphatic and mature performance that confirmed the tide of opinion is turning. Leicester are no longer viewed as plucky underdogs but as a club in position to make history. The Foxes can no longer portray themselves as being on a fantasy ride with nothing to lose at the end – there should now be disappointment if they do not win the title.
Can they really handle the pressure though?
It’s not the first time that an underdog club has been suddenly performing like a champion and is seen as a title contender. Norwich City let an unlikely title chance slip in the 1992-93 season when they were a point clear with only six games left.
Leicester forward Riyad Mahrez said: “We’re just going to keep dreaming, we’re going to fight for the title and see what we can do.”
However, there has not been a trace of evidence yet to suggest Leicester will crack. Another situation that works greatly in their favour is the fact that they have no other championships to distract them from the EPL. They are out of the FA Cup and Capital One Cup, and have no other ongoing distractions, thereby allowing them to focus solely on taking the EPL title home.
The questions relating to Leicester’s cause were asked after the Boxing Day defeat at Liverpool – and yet they responded with a fine performance in a home goalless draw against Manchester City. The FA Cup third-round loss at home to Spurs was followed by a thunderous 3-0 win at home to Stoke City – and when the biggest question of all was asked by Manuel Pellegrini’s expensively assembled squad on Saturday, the response could not have been more convincing.
Five points clear with 13 games left is a wonderful position to be in and there is no team playing better than Leicester City in the Premier League.
It is not simply “the pinnacle of the iceberg”, as Ranieri calls lethal strike pair Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, who are excelling. This is a complete team effort.
Wes Morgan and Robert Huth, who scored two at Etihad Stadium, present a formidable defensive barrier in front of keeper Kasper Schmeichel, while the outstanding midfielder N’Golo Kante is arguably the bargain of the season at £6m from Caen.
If there were any weaknesses in Leicester’s armoury they might have surfaced on Saturday against a Manchester City team unbeaten in seven games before kick-off.
And yet they played with drive, conviction and confidence from the moment Huth put them in front, mixing defensive defiance with those lightning counter-attacks that have punctuated their season.
So, can Leicester City win it this season?
Leicester can win the EPL, there is no doubt of that. Whether they will win it is another matter. They and Spurs have improved as the season has progressed whereas Man City and Arsenal have stood still or gone backwards, in terms of form. I actually thought Man City were the better team at Leicester just after Christmas and would have felt a touch disappointed not to have won it. Fast forward a few weeks and Leicester were definitely the better side at the Etihad. This weekend will tell us much about the current form and belief of the top four teams, even if it doesn’t tell us for sure who will become the new champions. No wonder the EPL is the most watched and enjoyed league in the world!