Le­ices­ter re­turn to King Power for emo­tional farewell to Vichai

The Nation - - SPORT -

LE­ICES­TER RE­TURN to ac­tion at the King Power Sta­dium on Satur­day with foot­ball a mere af­ter­thought as fans pre­pare to pay heart­felt trib­ute to the man who turned their dreams into as­ton­ish­ing re­al­ity.

Man­ager Claude Puel’s pre-match preparations for the game against Burnley were dis­rupted af­ter he and a num­ber of play­ers, in­clud­ing Jamie Vardy and Kasper Sch­me­ichel, trav­elled to Thai­land to pay re­spects to the late Vichai Sri­vad­dhanaprabha.

Le­ices­ter owner Vichai was killed in a he­li­copter crash just out­side the ground along with four other peo­ple af­ter his club’s 1-1 draw at their King Power Sta­dium on Oc­to­ber 27.

His death sent shock­waves through Le­ices­ter, where the charis­matic Vichai had be­come a beloved fig­ure in the club and the city, a feat rarely achieved by Pre­mier League clubs’ bil­lion­aire own­ers.

It was un­der Vichai’s own­er­ship that Le­ices­ter crafted one of the big­gest fairy­tales in English foot­ball his­tory by win­ning the 2015/16 Pre­mier League, hav­ing started the sea­son as 5,000-1 out­siders for the ti­tle.

The team, cur­rently 10th in the Pre­mier League, re­turned to ac­tion last week­end, beat­ing Cardiff 1-0 away but Satur­day will give a chance to a ca­pac­ity crowd to show their ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the man who trans­formed their club.

A spe­cial “Trib­ute to Khun Vichai” video will be shown on big screens be­fore kick-off, fol­lowed by a twominute si­lence. Fans will also re­ceive com­mem­o­ra­tive scarves and sou­venir match­day pro­grammes in hon­our of the club’s late chair­man.

Trib­ute T-shirts will be worn by the play­ers dur­ing their warm-up and Khun Vichai’s name will be em­broi­dered on the team’s match shirts dur­ing the first half.

The sec­ond-half shirts will bear the em­broi­dered poppy sym­bol in hon­our of those who have given their lives in war, with the match se­lected as the club’s an­nual re­mem­brance fix­ture, 100 years af­ter the end of World War I.

As well as of­fi­cial events at the sta­dium, thou­sands of fans are ex­pected to at­tend the “Vichai Walk” from the city cen­tre to the sta­dium in hon­our of those killed in the crash.

Mean­while, Pre­mier League lead­ers Manch­ester City can en­sure United’s re­cent re­vival is short-lived by beat­ing their lo­cal ri­vals in Sun­day’s late game.

City with a score to set­tle

Cham­pi­ons Manch­ester City lead the EPL by two points and have looked re­lent­less in re­cent weeks but one of last sea­son’s few blem­ishes saw them blow the chance to claim the ti­tle by beat­ing United at the Eti­had. City threw away a 2-0 half-time lead to lose 3-2.

United have failed to fin­ish above City in the league since Alex Fer­gu­son’s re­tire­ment in 2013 and are al­ready nine points be­hind their city neigh­bours.

Jose Mour­inho’s men were buoyed by eas­ily their best re­sult of the sea­son at Ju­ven­tus on Wed­nes­day to back up vic­to­ries over Ever­ton and Bournemouth but de­fen­sive con­cerns re­main, with United keep­ing just one clean sheet in their last 10 matches.

Stop­ping a City side av­er­ag­ing four goals a game at the Eti­had in the Pre­mier League this sea­son is a mon­u­men­tal task.

The Manch­ester derby is not the only game on Su­per Sun­day to fea­ture ti­tle chal­lengers.

Five of the top seven are in ac­tion across four games on Sun­day, of­fer­ing the chance for three dif­fer­ent teams to go top across the course of the day.

Liver­pool are first up, look­ing to make amends for a ter­ri­ble de­feat at Red Star Bel­grade that has threat­ened their chances of pro­gress­ing to the Cham­pi­ons League last 16.

Ful­ham are there­fore wel­come op­po­nents to An­field hav­ing slipped to the bot­tom of the ta­ble with a run of five straight de­feats.

Chelsea then have the chance to take top spot a cou­ple of hours later when Ever­ton are the vis­i­tors to Stam­ford Bridge.

Arse­nal are also in ac­tion as they look to ex­tend a 15-game un­beaten

The Le­ices­ter play­ers re­veal a thank-you ban­ner to Vichai Sri­vad­dhanaprabha af­ter their win last week­end. There are sure to be more tears on Satur­day.

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