Su­per Sun­day!

Clash be­tween sur­prise lead­ers Le­ices­ter and the team hop­ing to get their ti­tle hopes back on track, Arse­nal, is the week­end’s high­light

CityPress - - Sport -

All eyes will be on the ac­tion in the Bar­clays Premier League to­day when the sea­son’s sur­prise pack­age and cur­rent lead­ers, Le­ices­ter City, take on fel­low ti­tle hope­fuls Arse­nal at the Emi­rates Sta­dium.

The Foxes’ fairy tale rise to the sum­mit of English foot­ball has been a sur­prise to fans and pun­dits alike, in­clud­ing those who tipped the min­nows for rel­e­ga­tion at the start of the cam­paign.

How­ever, un­der the ste­ward­ship of wily old fox Clau­dio Ranieri, Le­ices­ter have gone from strength to strength this sea­son, thanks in no small part to the ex­ploits of star duo Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. How­ever, the Foxes are by no means a two-man team, with the likes of Robert Huth, Danny Drinkwa­ter and N’Golo Kanté also play­ing a cru­cial role in the Premier League side’s mon­u­men­tal suc­cess this term.

They face one of their sternest tests to date in the shape of Arsène Wenger’s Arse­nal, who are only five points be­hind Ranieri’s side head­ing into the busi­ness end of the sea­son.

The Foxes have tasted de­feat on just two oc­ca­sions in the league, the most re­cent of which was a 1-0 loss to Liverpool at An­field on Box­ing Day. Their only other de­feat came at the hands of Arse­nal, who halted the Foxes’ in­cred­i­ble un­beaten run with a 5-2 tri­umph at the King Power Sta­dium on Septem­ber 26.

While many sug­gested the loss to the Gun­ners would mark the start of a down­ward spiral, Le­ices­ter sim­ply shrugged off the de­feat, con­tin­u­ing to pick up re­sults and stake their claim at the top of the Premier League stand­ings.

Ranieri will be qui­etly con­fi­dent of aveng­ing their de­feat to the Gun­ners, es­pe­cially as Le­ices­ter seem­ingly re­main as de­ter­mined as ever and are show­ing no signs of let­ting up in their quest to claim a his­toric and mem­o­rable ti­tle.

Arse­nal, mean­while, head into this en­counter aim­ing to do the dou­ble over the Foxes in a bid to keep them­selves in the hunt for the league crown. Their re­cent form in the Premier League leaves much to be de­sired though, with last week­end’s 2-0 vic­tory over Bournemouth mark­ing their first three-point haul in five at­tempts.

A win would re­duce the gap be­tween them and Le­ices­ter to just two points, while also keep­ing up the pres­sure on fel­low high-fly­ers and Lon­don ri­vals Tot­ten­ham, who cur­rently oc­cupy se­cond place.

Later in the day, Tot­ten­ham will tar­get a fifth straight vic­tory when they travel to Manch­ester City, who come into the clash on the back of a shock 3-1 de­feat to Le­ices­ter.

While Le­ices­ter have grabbed the head­lines in re­cent times, Spurs have sneaked un­der the radar, so to speak, on their way to clinch­ing se­cond place on goal dif­fer­ence last week­end with a 1-0 vic­tory over Wat­ford.

Man­ager Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino has trans­formed the Lon­don out­fit into a well-oiled ma­chine ca­pa­ble of grind­ing out re­sults week in, week out, and his mo­ti­vated group of play­ers will un­doubt­edly be qui­etly con­fi­dent of record­ing a pos­i­tive re­sult against the Cit­i­zens.

Manuel Pel­le­grini’s side, mean­while, lost ground on the lead­ing pack fol­low­ing their de­feat to Le­ices­ter, a re­sult that fol­lowed hot on the heels of the rev­e­la­tion that Bay­ern Mu­nich boss Pep Guardi­ola will take over the reins from the Chilean at the Eti­had ahead of the 2016/17 cam­paign.

The de­feat to the Foxes will have raised doubts over the men­tal­ity of City’s play­ers amid fevered spec­u­la­tion over po­ten­tial sum­mer trans­fer busi­ness, and Pel­le­grini will be hop­ing to dis­pel such talk, for the time be­ing, when his side locks horns with Spurs at home.

With just three fix­tures sched­uled, Liverpool travel to rel­e­ga­tion-threat­ened As­ton Villa in to­day’s only other game.

The past month has been chal­leng­ing for the Reds, to say the least, with fix­tures com­ing thick and fast, and re­sults have not matched up to ex­pec­ta­tions at An­field. Jürgen Klopp’s men have been knocked out of the League Cup and the FA Cup in the space of a fort­night, while they have slipped down to ninth place in the league, just two points clear of 10th-placed Wat­ford.

The Vil­lans, mean­while, will be hop­ing to have turned the cor­ner, with a 2-0 vic­tory over Nor­wich City last week­end lift­ing them to within four points of 19th-placed Sun­der­land in the stand­ings.

– TEAMtalk me­dia

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