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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 19 October, 2019

Leicester three points from history and more Premier League thoughts

Plus, why Sunday’s game is just as important for Manchester United as it is for the Foxes.

Leicester need just three more points to win the Premier League.
Leicester need just three more points to win the Premier League.

Updated at 16.12

1. Leicester’s date with destiny

IT’S QUITE SIMPLE: win against Man United on Sunday and Leicester will be crowned Premier League champions.

The outcome is far from a formality, however.

The Red Devils are arguably in their best form of the season, having won six successive games at Old Trafford, while keeping five clean sheets in the process.

Only Man City have a better home Premier League record, so the Foxes have a difficult task on their hands.

That said, like United, Leicester are also in superb form, having won seven and drawn two of their last nine matches.

The visitors will be without star striker Jamie Vardy, whose suspension following the West Ham sending off continues, though as he showed last week, the England international’s replacement, Leonardo Ulloa, is more than capable of rising to the occasion in his place.

2. Can Tottenham secure Champions League spot?

Although the season looks set to end in somewhat anti-climactic fashion for Tottenham after last Monday’s disappointing draw with West Brom, it has nonetheless been a fantastic campaign for Spurs.

Pochettino gave a sense of the feel-good atmosphere currently at the club on Friday, when — after announcing that he was set to extend his contract — he added:

“It was an easy decision when you feel the love of the people and the potential of the club is massive, so why change?”

And while the league title now seems out of reach, a win against Chelsea on Monday will guarantee their place in next season’s Champions League — a magnificent achievement for a team that few expected to breach the top four at the beginning of the campaign.

3. Must-win game for Man United

Everton v Manchester United - Emirates FA Cup - Semi-Final - Wembley Stadium Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal's future has been the source of constant speculation this season. Source: Adam Davy

While Sunday’s match is important for Leicester for obvious reasons, it’s equally crucial for Man United.

The Red Devils are five points off a top-four spot, but with a game in hand on Man City and Arsenal, who are both on 64 points.

Consequently, anything other than a victory this weekend would be a severe blow to Louis van Gaal’s side’s Champions League hopes, while also likely casting further doubt on the Dutchman’s immediate future at Old Trafford.

With three games to play, it would be hard to imagine Arsenal and City letting a five-point lead slip. But if United can spoil Leicester’s party, the pressure will really be on the other top-four hopefuls to respond.

4. Sturridge aims to prove Klopp wrong

Somewhat controversially, Daniel Sturridge was left out of Liverpool’s midweek Europa League tie against Villarreal.

Despite the absence through injury of Divock Origi, Klopp preferred to pick Roberto Firmino to lead Liverpool’s attack ahead of Sturridge.

While Firmino is considered better off the ball, Sturridge tends to be more prolific, so some fans criticised Klopp for being overly conservative in choosing to leave out the England international, particularly against a Villarreal side that struggled to make much of an attacking impact for long periods of the match.

Nevertheless, this Sunday against Swansea, Sturridge is expected to get the chance to alleviate the doubts that the German boss might have about him.

The 26-year-old striker has managed six goals in his last seven appearances, so another this weekend will surely convince Klopp that he is worthy of a starting spot in next Thursday’s must-win return leg.

5. Will we see more of Kevin Toner?

There was some good news from an Irish perspective last weekend, as teenage defender Kevin Toner made his debut at half-time during Aston Villa’s defeat to Southampton.

It was heartening to see given the relative lack of Irish youngsters currently performing in the Premier League — at 24, Robbie Brady is the youngest player available to Martin O’Neill who is getting regular English top-flight football at the moment.

Caretaker Villa manager Eric Black certainly likes what he sees in Toner. At Friday’s press conference, Black told reporters: “He deserves enormous credit. I’ve been really refreshed by his mentality and the desire to be a football player. It’s something that’s sadly missing at times now. So to see a young man who’s so passionate about being a football player and will do anything to be a football player is wonderful.”

And while Toner won’t be in the Premier League much longer owing to Villa’s impending relegation, the drop could be a blessing in disguise as far as the Ireland U19 international is concerned. The Meath native is far more likely to get regular first-team football playing in the Championship, with some of the club’s more high-profile names expected to depart in the summer, thereby paving the way for the youngsters to take their places.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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