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Ranieri closes in on Hollywood ending with Leicester

29 April 2016, 21:38

London - The Premier League trophy arrived in Leicester on Friday for a promotional tour. It will surely be back next month with Leicester City etched into the solid silver for the first time.

The leaders can wrap up their improbable pursuit of the biggest prize in English football on Sunday with a victory at Manchester United.

Delivering the 132-year-old club's first title at the home of the record 20-time English champions would be the Hollywood ending craved by manager Claudio Ranieri.

Also read: It's red Leicester thanks to China's number one fan

"It's unbelievable, it's history and we know this," Ranieri said Friday. "It is important to finish the story like an American movie. Always in the final it is OK, a happy ending.

"It's a good opportunity but for this reason we have to be focused. Let me be calm, wait, we have time."

The trip to Old Trafford is the first of three opportunities to claim the required victory as Leicester has a seven-point lead over Tottenham. Even if Leicester fails to beat fifth-place United, the title can be clinched by Monday:

— If Leicester loses at United, it needs Tottenham to also lose at Chelsea

— If Leicester draws at United, Tottenham has to win at Chelsea to keep the title race going.

Leicester, which is unbeaten in the league since February, will again be missing 22-goal top scorer Jamie Vardy as the striker serves the second match of his suspension. But the Foxes more than adequately coped without Vardy last weekend as Stoke was routed 4-0.

Tottenham's Target

By the time Tottenham travels across London on Monday to Chelsea, keeping hold of second place could be the remaining target. Leicester beating United would ensure Tottenham cannot drop out of the top four, ensuring a return to the Champions League after six years.

A young, developing Tottenham team was not expected to be so high up in the standings at this stage of the season. Now the second-place London club remains on course for its highest finish in more than 50 years.

And manager Mauricio Pochettino is ready to commit his future to Tottenham, disclosing Friday that he has verbally agreed to stay with the club until at least 2021.

Chelsea, which is preparing to hand the Premier League trophy over to Leicester, has not lost at home to Tottenham in any competition since February 1990.

Arsenal Uproar

Arsene Wenger is on the defensive, trying to dampen the mutinous mood among some fans' groups.

Anger has mounted now the team has gone a dozen years without lifting the Premier League trophy.

"Some groups of people try to manipulate our fans," Wenger said ahead of Saturday's game against Norwich. "And I believe apart from an agenda, a personal agenda, a big ego, there's not a lot behind it.

"This team has character and attitude. Some people question them. I know them well, and they have less character than this team have. I saw them play and I know them very closely, and they shouldn't question this team's character."

Top at the start of 2016 entering the second half of the season, Arsenal is fourth entering the final three games of the season. Now the priority is slipping any further and falling out of the Champions League places.

"When a club cannot enjoy anything anymore, it's in trouble," Wenger said. "In football you go down very quickly and come up very slowly. We have to stick together."

City's Chase

Manchester City's priority is progressing in the Champions League, with Manuel Pellegrini's side locked at 0-0 in their semifinal with Real Madrid which resumes in the Spanish capital on Wednesday.

But City's players have to face Southampton on Sunday, while Madrid's domestic fixture is on Saturday, ensuring an extra day's rest before the second leg.

Pellegrini failed to get the Southampton game brought forward from Sunday afternoon to Saturday. It's still a significant game for the club, with City only ahead of Arsenal due to its superior goal difference. United is five points behind them but with a game in hand.

"In the Premier League, I don't understand why when having so many games, and they all have the same interest, that we can't play one day before to have 24 hours (more rest), at least having the same as Real Madrid," Pellegrini said.

City will be without David Silva for the second leg as the playmaker recovers from a hamstring injury.

Relegation Battle

Sunderland can stay out of the relegation zone by beating Stoke. Behind the north-east club in the drop zone, due to an inferior goal difference, is Norwich. Newcastle is a point back as it prepares to host FA Cup finalist Crystal Palace.

- AP


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