LONDON • Claudio Ranieri yesterday held the Premier League Manager of the month for March award. But the Leicester City manager knows that bigger prizes await, even as he continues to downplay his side's chances of winning the league.
The Foxes lead second-placed Tottenham Hotspur by seven points heading into tomorrow's game against Sunderland and need 12 more to win their first English top-flight title.
The title favourites could also clinch a top-four finish mathematically if they beat the Black Cats and other results go in their favour.
Should Manchester United lose to Tottenham and West Ham drop points to Arsenal, Leicester will feature in Europe's elite club competition next season.
"We are fighting for the Champions League. Let me play another three matches then I tell you something else," Ranieri told a press conference yesterday. The Italian refused to look past Sunderland, and will tell his men to do the same.
"What we do is important, before thinking about anybody else," he said. "Then we can check the table later. I'll repeat to my players, it's important what we do. The other teams can win all their matches, so I must be focused. I expect Tottenham, Arsenal, everyone to win all their games and then I want to fight to achieve the Champions League."
FOXES ON THE PROWL
Leicester City need just four more wins from their last six matches to win the Premier League. They claimed a massive 16 points from a possible 18 in the reverse fixtures earlier in the season. Can any of their remaining opponents stop them?
1. SUNDERLAND (A) - TOMORROW
Previously: Leicester 4 Sunderland 2
A team fighting for survival, Sunderland have not lost in their last four games (four draws).
2. WEST HAM (H) - APRIL 17
Previously: West Ham 1 Leicester 2
West Ham, still in the running for a Champions League spot, will prove a difficult test.
3. SWANSEA (H) - APRIL 24
Previously: Swansea 0 Leicester 3
Riyad Mahrez seemed to have a way with Swansea, scoring a hat-trick in the reverse fixture.
4. MANCHESTER UNITED (A) - MAY 1
Previously: Leicester 1 Man United 1
If all goes well and Leicester win all their games, this could be the match that decides the title.
5. EVERTON (H) - MAY 8
Previously: Everton 2 Leicester 3
Everton have little to play for, but Leicester could still be on fire in their last home game - especially with a trophy presentation awaiting them.
6. CHELSEA (A) - MAY 15
Previously: Leicester 2 Chelsea 1
Chelsea players will put up a show for new manager Antonio Conte, while Claudio Ranieri will relish the chance of beating his former club, especially if the title chase goes down to the wire.
With Leicester playing before Spurs, Ranieri at least admitted that his side could heap more pressure on their closest rivals.
"It could be a psychological advantage to play first and go 10 points ahead," he said, adding that he has a fully fit squad to choose from, with midfielder Jeffrey Schlupp back from injury. "But our performance is more important. Sunderland are desperate. It will be a big battle."
Sunderland are four points adrift of Norwich in 17th place and manager Sam Allardyce has all but revealed his game plan to talkSport, suggesting that he will set his side up to defend for most of the match.
"On the form that they're in, you'd have to say yes (we would take a point)," he said. "But we do have to try, and will at some stage, to go all out to try and win it.
"If we're in a position where we're drawing with 10 or 15, 20 minutes to go, we will have a go because we've got to. We've got to try and secure those three points and make sure we catch up on the rest."
Sunderland's on-loan defender DeAndre Yedlin has more than survival on his mind. The United States international is hoping to do his parent club Tottenham a favour.
"The whole Leicester thing is an unbelievable story," he told the Evening Standard. "But it's obviously one we are going to try and put a dent in this weekend."
SUNDERLAND V LEICESTER CITY
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