Leicester City are showing tenacity, nerve and class – promotion is within sight

Leicester City have one foot in the Premier League. While some will be crunching the numbers on what is needed over the next two games, only one sum should be on the minds of the players and manager Enzo Maresca. After hammering promotion-rivals Southampton 5-0, they are one more win from promotion.

After collecting 94 points over the course of a challenging campaign, particularly in the second half of it, they now need just three more to reach the top flight.

That is assuming Leeds United win both their remaining games but if they lose away to Queens Park Rangers on Friday night, Leicester’s promotion will be confirmed before they arrive at Deepdale on Monday night to take on Preston North End.

Ipswich Town, who have a game in hand, remain in contention. But even if they win all three of their final fixtures — Hull City away on Saturday, away again at Coventry City next Tuesday and at home to Huddersfield Town on the final day — Leicester just need four points from their remaining two games to ensure the Championship title returns to the King Power Stadium, 10 years on from when Nigel Pearson’s side lifted it.

Ipswich know the pressure is on them and their focus after Leicester’s emphatic win may now realistically be on pipping Leeds to the second automatic promotion place. Kieran McKenna’s side have also shown they are more than capable of taking it to the final game in what has been a remarkable season where four sides have battled for the two automatic places. But if Leeds and Ipswich stumble this weekend, Leicester could be playing for the title at Preston.

“I just said before tonight’s game we didn’t know how many points we needed — the good feeling is that now, you know that with one win you get promoted,” said Maresca.

“We look just now to get promoted. It doesn’t matter in this moment if we finish first or second. In this moment we know that the most important thing is to try to win one more game to get promoted and then we see (about the title).”

Leicester knew their game in hand on Southampton was always going to be key fixture. The stoic win over West Bromwich Albion sent them back to the summit but there were still some nerves around the ground as Russell Martin’s team arrived.

A pre-match video montage shown on the big screens of highlights from the season was accompanied by Kate Bush’s classic Running up that Hill. Since the middle of February it has certainly been an uphill struggle, with Leicester hunted by their rivals on the pitch and the EFL and Premier League off it for alleged breaches of profit and sustainability rules (PSR). 

There is an element of the fanbase that still want accountability of the failures of last season, but the scenes at the final whistle demonstrated there could be a positive outcome.

During those celebrations, ABBA’s Voulez Vous blared out, sung with the subtle word change of (Abdul) Fatawu. The Ghana winger has become a fans’ favourite and here he was, dancing in celebration, filming himself with the matchball. 


Mareca and Harry Winks celebrate at full-time (Michael Regan/Getty Images)

He is on loan from Sporting Lisbon with a view to a permanent move, but with an EFL registration embargo hanging over the club, that deal is in doubt. Maresca admits it is a complicated situation.

Promotion would lift that embargo and although Leicester will face sanction from the Premier League instead,  it will enable them to complete that deal and re-sign players out of contract this summer, like the ever-green Jamie Vardy, now on 18 goals for the season at the age of 37. His performance epitomised Leicester’s tenacity in how they hunted Southampton and thrashed them with just 34 per cent possession.

It may be the Maresca era, but with such possession stats and outcome and Vardy on the scoresheet, this had shades of Claudio Ranieri’s tenure.

Maresca, his fellow Italian, likes his team to dominate the ball and control proceedings. He is no fan of basketball-style games, but his side has the pace to be effective on the counter-attack, too, which would be useful in the Premier League.

The hope is Maresca’s squad will be able to stay together and build on the work they have done this season.

They just need to finish the job in style. They just need one more win.

(Top image: Abdul Fatawu with the match-ball. Michael Regan/Getty Images)

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