London (AFP) – Leicester City may be able to let their hair down now they have secured one of sport’s most unlikely triumphs in winning the Premier League but manager Claudio Ranieri wants no let-up from his champions.
Fans at the King Power Stadium on Saturday will have Ranieri’s fellow Italian Andrea Bocelli, one of the world’s leading tenors, to serenade them before kick-off and after the match skipper Wes Morgan will collect the Premier League trophy — final proof that the 5,000/1 pre-season outsiders have indeed clinched the title.
But in between they face Everton, with the Merseyside club’s manager Roberto Martinez desperate for a win that will help take the Toffees into the top half of the table and lessen the calls from angry fans demanding the Spaniard be replaced at Goodison Park.
“Inside me there are two people. One is a very aggressive, I want to win, I won the Premier League but now I want to win on Saturday,” said Ranieri.
Martinez said he did not expect Leicester to ease up after several days of rejoicing that started when second-placed Tottenham’s draw with Chelsea on Monday meant they could no longer catch the Foxes.
“I’m sure any sort of celebration could affect you in the long term if you had to face a difficult month. In a 90-minute game where the stadium is going to be an historic environment, I’m sure that can only be positive for the home team,” Martinez said.
– Huth ban –
Leicester’s Robert Huth will miss Saturday’s game after admitting a Football Association charge of violent conduct for pulling the hair of Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford last weekend.
Fellaini, who reacted by striking Huth with an elbow, was also banned for three games and will miss United’s end to the Premier League season, although the Belgian midfielder will be available for the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace.
Tottenham, who were last crowned champions of England back in 1961, will look to put the crushing disappointment of their draw at Stamford Bridge — a match where a full-time melee could yet see the FA take disciplinary action — behind them at home to manager Mauricio Pochettinho’s former club Southampton.
Spurs are at least assured of a Champions League place, with two of their top four rivals going head-to-head when Manchester City face Arsenal on Sunday.
City will still be smarting from Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat by Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the Champions League as manager Manuel Pellegrini’s time at Eastlands — he will be replaced by Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola next season — draws to a close.
Manchester United travel to relegation-threatened Norwich in a must-win game for both sides.
United are four points off a top four place and manager Louis van Gaal is convinced a debilitating pre-Christmas injury list damaged their chances this term.
“I can only say that in the end of November we had first position, after that we had a big decline. These are the facts,” van Gaal said. “Also the injuries are a fact.”
Sunderland will continue their bid to climb out of the bottom three at home to Chelsea while Newcastle, just above the drop zone, travel to already relegated Aston Villa.
Palace, still not mathematically safe from relegation, face Stoke at Selhurst Park.
Liverpool, fresh from reaching the Europa League final after beating Villarreal at Anfield on Thursday, host Watford on Sunday.
Fixtures (1400 GMT unless stated)
Aston Villa v Newcastle, Bournemouth v West Brom, Crystal Palace v Stoke, Leicester v Everton (1630 GMT), Norwich v Manchester United (1145 GMT), Sunderland v Chelsea, West Ham v Swansea
Liverpool v Watford (1500 GMT), Manchester City v Arsenal (1500 GMT), Tottenham v Southampton (1230 GMT)
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