Party time for Leicester, others hard at work
LONDON – It will be party time on Saturday when Leicester City play their first game as Premier League champions, but for the clubs they have left in the shade and those fighting relegation there is serious business to attend to.
Claudio Ranieri’s fantastic Foxes will be basking in glory in front of their home fans at the King Power stadium when Everton provide the opposition ahead of the pre-season 5,000-1 shots’ coronation.
Everton’s players are likely to form a guard of honour before the match, and the trophy will be lifted by captain Wes Morgan after it. The champagne may then flow in earnest.
Arsenal and Manchester City will face off at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday with a nagging sense of opportunity lost.
With last year’s champions Chelsea a spent force by Christmas and Manchester United and Liverpool both off the pace, City and Arsenal failed to benefit, allowing Leicester to head off Tottenham Hotspur and claim their first English title.
With two games left they are fighting to secure top-four spots and a Champions League ticket.
Third-placed Arsenal, three points behind north London rivals Tottenham and three above Manuel Pellegrini’s City side, will guarantee themselves an 18th successive Champions League campaign if they leave the north-west with a win.
Defeat for City would leave them vulnerable to fifth-placed Manchester United, who travel to relegation-threatened Norwich City on Saturday four points behind their local rivals with a game in hand at West Ham United next week.
The pressure will also be on City to secure a top-four finish following Wednesday’s semi-final exit from the Champions League. Manuel Pellegrini’s men will have just four days to recover from the 1-0 defeat by Real Madrid that ended their hopes of a maiden title in Europe’s premier club competition.
Arsenal’s failure to chase down Leicester, and their likely finish below Tottenham for the first time since 1995 has caused a rift between loyalists of manager Arsene Wenger and those fans demanding change.
A final home game against relegated Aston Villa is a useful insurance policy for Arsenal, even if they did slip at City.
Tottenham’s hopes of catching Leicester suffered a fatal blow in Monday’s tempestuous 2-2 draw at Chelsea but they will be guaranteed a top-three finish if they beat Southampton at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side will be desperate to finish second, which would be their best showing since 1963 when Everton were champions.
At the bottom, Norwich, Sunderland and Newcastle United continue their survival scrap with two of the three to join Aston Villa through the trap door.
Newcastle (33 points) are away at doomed Villa, while Sunderland (32) host Chelsea. Norwich (31) can put pressure on both if they beat United in Saturday’s early kickoff. -Reuters