Tinkerman back at the Bridge as champion

LONDON • Claudio Ranieri's Premier League story comes full circle today as he returns in triumph to Chelsea for the final fixture of title-winners Leicester's momentous and historic season.

"It is amazing," the Italian said. "I have been back there with Juventus in the Champions League, but this time is different because this time it is with Leicester, another English club.

Ranieri's engaging character and gift for a soundbite made him a popular figure during the 31/2 years he spent at Chelsea.

But despite four seasons of steady progress, culminating in a second-place finish in 2003-04, he was sacked because owner Roman Abramovich reportedly felt he could not win the league.

It was Chelsea, ironically, whose 2-2 draw with Tottenham two weeks ago delivered the title to the King Power Stadium.

And the Foxes are not done, with more milestones in sight.

Should Tottenham lose at Newcastle and third-place Arsenal fail to beat Aston Villa, a Leicester victory will give them a winning margin of 13 points - the joint second-biggest gap since three points for a win was introduced in 1981.

Having taken his tally to 24, Jamie Vardy trails Tottenham's Harry Kane by just one goal in the race for the Golden Boot.

As well as saying hello again to Ranieri, Chelsea's fans will bid farewell for a second time to interim manager Guus Hiddink.

Reflecting on his return to the club, Hiddink said: "In general I'm happy. We managed to come back and we're happy to, but it's not enough for Chelsea standards."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 15, 2016, with the headline 'Tinkerman back at the Bridge as champion'. Print Edition | Subscribe