Sport

Flying foxes show no signs of slowing down

Following the remarkable 3-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium last Saturday, Leicester City have emerged as favourites to win the Premier League for the first time this season (2/1 with some bookmakers).
 
Accompanied by this gambling news, many start-of-the-season punts have surfaced in the mainstream sporting media, with some having placed bets at odds of 5,000/1 along with crazy cash-out offers.
 
This is a credit 5,000/1 fairytale because it is now, and rightfully so, considered a reality. Looking at their 10-week schedule at the beginning of December, they have faced the likes Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City (twice), Tottenham Hotspur and Everton. They have come out unscathed from these run, bar a defeat at Anfield.
 
Many felt that this run of games would be Leicester’s litmus test and they have passed that test with flying colours and they have acted like they belong at the head of the table in the process.
 
If you haven’t been on the Moon in the past six months, then you will know the dynamic duo of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, which is causing as much of a highlight reel storm as Steph Curry is in the NBA or Odell Beckham Jnr. in the NFL.
 
But the Foxes are much more than a two-man band. They have a manager in Claudio Ranieri who has been around the proverbial block over the years. His unique experience has been one of the more important catalysts in Leicester’s success. 
 
Their upsurge in form is not particularly sudden as they were bottom of the league a year ago before they had an incredible escape, so they have continued their run into this season.
 
Back on the field and apart from vicious Vardy and magical Mahrez, they have a squad of players who are happy to play Robin to the Batman (or Batmen) with a clean and positive attitude in the dressing room.
 
Leader Wes Morgan in defence has immersed himself within the fabric of the club and is a well-respected but ever reliable rock, just like John Terry, Vincent Kompany and Rio Ferdinand were in previous title winning squads.
 
An extremely hard working midfield in experienced Marc Albrighton, tireless Danny Drinkwater and, of course, the monster that is in N’Golo Kanté, provides a sturdy platform that allows others to flourish.
 
Sunday at 12 o’clock at the Emirates Stadium will provide undoubtedly the most fascinating tie between Arsenal and Leicester in history, and that doesn’t even consider the 4.15pm fixture up in Manchester.
 
A win for Leicester, along with a huge win for Spurs compiling more misery on Pellegrini’s Man City, will open up an 8 point gap between the league leaders and third place with 12 games to play.
 
One negative factor might be that Arsenal are the only side to outclass Leicester City this season in a 7-goal game split 5-2 in the early stages of the season and that could be in the back of their minds.
 
Tempting fate by looking ahead at Leicester’s next 9 games, they have a run of games where they should be expecting at least 20 points from 27, the hardest test being an unpredictable Everton side at the King Power Stadium.
 
Leicester are only missing one critical ingredient that title-winning regulars are missing and that is vital experience down the stretch. Leicester’s only fault over the last 12 or so games have been dropping points against sides struggling to stay in the division (Aston Villa and Bournemouth). 
 
They should be favourites in 8 of the 12 games left, which could create doubt that has not been apparent all season.
 
Leicester have been everyone’s second team this season. Their comparative lack of funding make them the natural underdog. They are ruining the status quo in a sport where money almost always rules all.
 
Leicester are guaranteed top four according to the general consensus, a feat which will not be recognised until the primary target is dashed, but if not dashed, the colossal TV funding in England may see that status quo, that traditional “Big Four” of the past, never returning again.