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The Economic Times - - Sports - Toby Davis

Le­ices­ter City are just four wins away from the Premier League ti­tle. They have six games to play. Now, even their worst crit­ics aren’t bet­ting against the Foxes

When Le­ices­ter City faced Sun­der­land on the openi ng day of t he sea­son, even their most op­ti­mistic fans were ex­pect­ing another test­ing strug­gle to avoid rel­e­ga­tion. As they pre­pare to visit Sam Al­lardyce’s side in the re­turn fix­ture on Sun­day, some of those sup­port­ers are now pre-emp­tively buy­ing scarves em­bla­zoned with the words ‘Premier League Champions’.

While many are no doubt steer­ing clear to avoid tempt­ing fate, four vic­to­ries from the re­main­ing six games of the sea­son will hand Le­ices­ter a maiden top flight ti­tle and com­plete one of the most re­mark­able fairy­tales in English foot­ball his­tory.

Le­ices­ter lead sec­ond place Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur by seven points head­ing into Sun­day’s game and need 12 more to put them­selves out of sight.

For the Le­ices­ter side that plunged to the foot of the ta­ble last sea­son, four wins in six games might have seemed like a daunt­ing task.

Yet such has been the col­lec­tive sense of calm that seems to en­cir­cle Clau­dio Ranieri’s side this year that few are now ex­pect­ing a col­lapse in the home straight.

The slip-ups and the wob­bles have been re­served for the so-called big­ger teams, who have all fallen of f the pace while Le­ices­ter have sailed smoothly through the sup­posed choppy wa­ters of the ti­tle run-in.

Four suc­ces­sive 1-0 vic­to­ries have pro­pelled Le­ices­ter to the verge of suc­cess and been tes­ta­ment to the or­gan­i­sa­tional abil­i­ties of their Ital­ian coach.

Le­ices­ter have never kept five con­sec­u­tive clean sheets in the top f light, but, in a sea­son when past records have counted for lit­tle, it would be a brave man, or per­haps a fool­ish one, to bet against another shutout against Sun­der­land, whose rel­e­ga­tion woes are in­ten­si­fy­ing.

Al­lardyce’s side are four points adrift of Nor­wich City in 17th and en­ter­ing the now- or-never part of the sea­son when they will have to start win­ning or be­come re­signed to their fate. Tot­ten­ham, whose hopes of catch­ing Le­ices­ter were dented by their 1-1 draw with Liver­pool at An­field last week­end, could find them­selves 10 points adrift of t he le aders by t he ti me t hey host Manch­ester United later on Sun­day.

United are in­volved in a lo­cal battle with Manch­ester City for fourth place and the fi­nal Champions League qual­i­fi­ca­tion spot and would love noth­ing more than to sal­vage an in­con­sis­tent sea­son by over­haul­ing their ri­vals in the ta­ble.

City, buoyed by a gritty 2-2 draw at Paris St Ger­main in their Champions League quar­ter-fi­nal first leg on Wed­nes­day, host West Bromwich Al­bion, who are com­fort­ably placed in mid-ta­ble. Third place Arse­nal, whose hopes of tak­ing any­thing from the cam­paign look for­lorn as they trail Le­ices­ter by 11 points, al­beit with a game in hand, travel to West Ham United on Satur­day.

New­cas­tle United, who are bat­tling lo­cal ri­vals Sun­der­land to avoid rel­e­ga­tion, visit Southamp­ton, while Nor­wich play at Crys­tal Palace.

Alan Pardew’s Palace are three points above Nor­wich, but seem­ingly in freefall af­ter fail­ing to win a league game since De­cem­ber.

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