On Monday night, Leicester City can become only the sixth team to win the Premier League if Tottenham Hotspur does anything except defeat Chelsea. If that does happen, don’t expect their manager Claudio Ranieri to be the first one popping the champagne.
“Tomorrow night I’m on a flight… and I come back at the same time of the match,” the 64 year-old manager said in his postmatch press conference following his team’s 1-1 draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon. Despite being on the verge of winning his first trophy as champions of a top-flight league, the Italian will be in his native land on Monday.
“My mother is 96 years old and I want to have a lunch with her,” he explained.
If Ranieri isn’t able to celebrate tomorrow, no matter what result that Tottenham manages to end up with at Stamford Bridge, he will most certainly be able to celebrate at some point in the next two weeks. Leicester can only lose the title by earning only one point or fewer over their final two games.
Even if they do not, Tottenham must win against Southampton and away at Newcastle (who could very well be fighting for their Premier League status) after their match against Chelsea. It’s not the easiest stretch of games for a Spurs side that finds themselves eight points behind the league leaders.
Leicester could have wrapped up the title this morning, which would have made them the first away club since Arsenal to clinch the Premier League at Old Trafford. Instead, the side that entered the season as 5000-1 odds of winning the league fell behind early on an Anthony Martial goal. Before anyone could think if this could be the beginning of the end for the Foxes, captain Wes Morgan (brilliantly dubbed “Captain Morgan” on Arlo White’s call of the goal) headed in a free kick from Danny Drinkwater to equalize the score at one.
Despite good chances from Leicester to grab the title-clinching goal at the start of the first half, and Drinkwater’s late dismissal from the match for receiving two yellow cards, the scoreline did not change after Morgan’s header. Drinkwater will be forced to miss the next match for Leicester, in what could be a magisterial day at King Power Stadium in Leicester.
While Leicester loses Drinkwater, they regain their offensive catalyst, Jamie Vardy. The striker who has netted 22 goals was sent off in Leicester’s thrilling 2-2 draw against West Ham United two weeks ago. Vardy was given the same punishment for two yellow cards that Drinkwater will receive, and was also given a ban for an additional match because of improper conduct towards referee Jon Moss in his reaction to the sending off.
A week before Christmas, Leicester defeated Everton at Goodison Park in Liverpool to assure that they would be on top of the table on Christmas morning. When Leicester hosts the struggling Merseyside club, it is for the assurance that they will finish the league on top. And if Tottenham can’t find a way to defeat last year’s champions on Monday night, a title will be guaranteed no matter what happens.
Just make sure that you tell that to Claudio Ranieri, should you end up knowing the result before he does.