Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 19th 2016 Contents LONDON---A bet that could see for-
mer England great Gary Lineker on
TV in his underwear is not a normal
But how brave, or foolish, was the
former Leicester striker to say he would
host the first "Match of the Day" next
season in his underpants if his old club
won the Premier League?
The naked truth is that Lineker could
be heading for an embarrassing Saturday
After narrowly avoiding relegation at
the end of last season, Leicester hired
a new manager in 64-year-old Claudio
Ranieri, a popular coach with a wealth
of experience but a dearth of silverware.
Add the modest budget for transfers,
and it s not surprising the team was
firmly marked down as a prime can-
didate for the drop.
Instead, Leicester has spent weeks at
the top of the world s richest league,
and only a goal difference of three is
currently keeping the club in second
place below Arsenal. If not for a missed
penalty in Saturday s draw at Aston
Villa, the Foxes could well be two points
clear of the chasing pack.
Can they keep this going and create
one of the biggest shocks in English
The simple answer is "yes."
The arguments against them are pre-
dictable and well-rehearsed. Leicester
has no real Premier League pedigree,
no star players and no prospect of any
big-name signings. It s hard to imagine
a top international player joining over
the next two weeks and telling reporters
"ever since I was a kid, it was my dream
to play for Leicester."
And in 30 years as a coach, Ranieri s
trophy cabinet is certainly not cluttered.
An Italian Cup in 1996 from his time
with Fiorentina and the 1999 Copa del
Rey with Valencia pretty much fills it.
However, none of this fazes a well-
drilled Leicester side that is thoroughly
enjoying its football and is free of expec-
And that s just the point. Leicester
has none of the pressure that s now
ratcheting up on Arsenal, Manchester
City and Manchester United as players
in the glamour clubs head toward the
business end of the season.
And a team that plays without fear
is a dangerous opponent.
Leicester showed no fear when
it hosted Premier League champion
Chelsea, beating the Blues 2-1 in
an impressive performance. The
millionaire players of both Man-
chester clubs have been held to
draws, and fourth-place Tottenham
was beaten at White Hart Lane last
week. Among the title contenders,
only Arsenal has so far inflicted a
defeat on Leicester.
On a purely footballing level,
Leicester is good enough to win
Arsenal, City and United fans
found it amusing when "little
Leicester"---Ranieri s words--- went
to the top of the Premier League
on November 21 after 13 games.
Nine matches and two months
later, they re not laughing any more.
Leicester is still up with the pace-
setters and showing no signs of the
sudden implosion and descent to
mid-table mediocrity that was so
widely predicted. What s more, the
argument that "this has never been
done before" carries even less
Nobody had scored in 11 con-
secutive Premier League matches
before Leicester s Jamie Vardy com-
pleted the feat in late November.
No team had been in last place
in the Premier League on one
Christmas Day and then top on
December 25 the following year
until Leicester managed it last
While Vardy has not added to
his 15 goals since mid-December,
in large part because of a groin
problem that has since required
surgery, that hasn t prevented
Leicester from winning matches.
Supported by attacking mid-
fielder Riyad Mahrez, arguably the
other revelation of the Premier
League this season along with
Vardy, Leicester s attack carries real
menace---as the stats show.
Forget Arsenal s Mesut Ozil,
United s Wayne Rooney or City s
Sergio Aguero. The Premier
League s Player Index, essentially
a ranking of individual performance
across 471 registered players, has
13-goal Mahrez in first place and
Vardy in second. (AP)
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Leicester: Title contender, or just pretending?
Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez, left, is tackled by Aston Villa's Idrissa Gana
during the English Premier League soccer match between Aston Villa and
Leicester City at Villa Park, Birmingham, England, Saturday. AP PHOTO
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