Foxes out to halt demise

De­fend­ing cham­pi­ons fac­ing tough task in league this sea­son

Global Times - Weekend - - SPORTS -

Eight months af­ter com­plet­ing one of sport’s most re­mark­able tri­umphs of the un­der­dogs, Premier League cham­pi­ons Le­ices­ter City stand po­ten­tially one more bad re­sult away from a place in the rel­e­ga­tion zone.

Such has been their rapid demise that de­feat against Manch­ester United on Sun­day, cou­pled with good week­ends for rel­e­ga­tion ri­vals Crys­tal Palace and Swansea City, and a place in the bot­tom three will be theirs.

Hav­ing suf­fered a third suc­ces­sive de­feat on Tues­day with a 1-0 loss at Burn­ley, the al­most un­think­able sce­nario of Le­ices­ter drop­ping out of the top flight a year af­ter strad­dling its sum­mit moved an­other step closer.closer closer.

Man­ager Clau­dio Ranieri may not be press­ing the panic but­ton, but the post­mortem fol­low­ing their Turf Moor re­verse, which left them with the worst record af­ter 23 games of any reign­ing Premier League cham­pi­ons, pin­pointed some fa­mil­iar themes.

Fore­most among their cur­rent fail­ings is a de­fense that has gone from rock solid to leaky and a for­ward line that was ra­zor sharp, but now looks blunt.

The Foxes fin­ished last sea­son hav­ing con­ceded 36 goals, yet have al­ready shipped 38 in just 23 out­ings.

Things are not much bet­ter at the other end of the pitch. At this point last year, Ranieri’s side had found the net 42 times, but have cur­rently only man­aged 24.

While the enor­mity of Ranieri’s suc­cess, as well Le­ices­ter Le­ices­ter’s s ex­cel­lent Cham­pi­ons League form, should be enough to keep him out of the Premier League’s man­age­rial sack race, even reign­ing ti­tle win­ners can find them­selves un­der pres­sure pres­sure.

With their squad al­most iden­ti­cal to last sea­son’s, bar­ring N’Golo Kante’s de­par­ture to Chelsea, a lack of be­lief seems to be one of the rea­sons be­hind their cur­rent woes.

A tan­gi­ble as­set of last sea­son’s cham- pi­ons was their seem­ingly in­ex­orable lev­els of team spirit that en­sured they were res­o­lute un­der pres­sure and re­lent­less in their pur­suit of points.

That steel has been re­placed by a fragility that seems to rear its head ev­ery time they travel away from the home comforts of the King Power Sta­dium.

They are cur­rently with­out a win on the road this sea­son, hav­ing picked up three points from three draws, a dis­mal re­turn com­pared to the 11 wins and six draws they har­vested from 19 away games en route to the ti­tle.

They will be hap­pier, there­fore, to be host­ing United, who were left frus­trated with a 0-0 draw against Hull City on Wed­nes­day Wed­nes­day.

The high­light of the week­end’s fix­tures sees Arse­nal, beat- en at home to Wat­ford on Tues­day, hop­ing to re­ju­ve­nate their ti­tle bid with vic­tory on Satur­day at lead­ers Chelsea, who are nine points clear at the sum­mit.

Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur, who are ahead of Arse­nal on goal dif­fer­ence in sec­ond place, host Mid­dles­brough on Satur­day, when Liver­pool visit Hull City, while Manch­ester City host Swansea on Sun­day.

Photo: CFP

Le­ices­ter City goal­keeper Kasper Sch­me­ichel re­acts dur­ing their Premier League loss against Burn­ley on Tues­day in Burn­ley, Eng­land.

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