Whether it’s World Soccer Talk, NBC Sports or the most watched news bulletin in the UK, people just cannot stop talking about Leicester City.
Leicester fans have been living in dreamland since April 18 after the club beat Swansea and that slim possibility of safety became clearer. Not to be swayed by the departure of Nigel Pearson, the arrival of Claudio Ranieri ensured that the dream continued.
After hitting top spot in November and suffering what can be called a ‘sticky’ patch by the Foxes’ standards in late December, Leicester face a two game test that will shape its future: Manchester City (Saturday, February 6) and Arsenal (Sunday, February 14).
There wouldn’t be anything wrong with feeling fearful at the games coming up. Ranieri’s men have yet to beat any of the two teams, yielding just one point in the league. But the much famed counter-attacking and bright, energetic forward-line that is so talked about that hit form again against Stoke City and Liverpool, and with a more organized, rigid defense Arsenal won’t have free reign over Leicester’s defense as they did at the King Power Stadium back in September.
Whether it’s plaudits for the manager, team or the home fans’ atmosphere, everything in the world of Leicester City is looking good. Fan groups across the USA, including the New York Foxes, are reveling in the coverage after spending preceding years listening to most games on the radio.
There is a serious chance of European soccer next season, whether the UEFA Europa League or UEFA Champions League. Qualification would see the club’s first European adventure since 2000, when the club lost in the first round of the UEFA Cup. After the difficult run over the next week, an eight-game run of matches, all with very winnable games, follows. It’s a set of matches just like last season’s run in, where there is a real chance to put a strong run together. By the end of the run, it will be April 23, and a last three run-in of Manchester United (A), Everton (H) and Chelsea (A). By then, we could stop being in dreamland and find ourselves in one hell of a reality.
Leicester City has a rich history, but not one that will rival any of the top Premier League teams. Champions League or, as unthinkable as it is right now, a Premier League title, would cause such a huge shift in the English soccer landscape, and with the most unlikely new kid in town that the clubs history will, for the first time, be truly global.
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