Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Prem crown in sight for Leicester

Published:Friday | April 15, 2016 | 4:00 AM
Leicester coach Claudio Ranieri

LONDON, AP:

Leicester's next hurdle in their unexpected run to the English title is against the Premier League's other surprise package.

In the league's most unpredictable season since its inception in 1992, Leicester will face sixth-place West Ham on Sunday with both teams seeking their highest finish in the Premier League era.

Leicester will be looking to maintain their seven-point lead over Tottenham at the top, while West Ham try to close the gap on fourth-place Manchester City. A loss for Leicester could see Tottenham, which play at Stoke on Monday, cut the lead to only four points with four games remaining.

Leicester's rise to the top of English football is widely regarded as one of the league's most surprising events since Blackburn won the top division in 1995. Like Blackburn, Leicester's success has been largely because of their attacking prowess, although instead of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, it's Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.

Vardy has scored 21 goals this season, including two against Sunderland last week, and trails league leader Harry Kane by only one.

"He deserves everything he gets," Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said of Vardy. "He works so hard and he's a top lad around the dressing room. He's a good influence on everybody.

"Even balls that are put into areas that some strikers maybe wouldn't go for them, he runs them down. He makes bad balls into good balls and good balls into great balls."

West Ham also have plenty to play for in their first season under manager Slaven Bilic. The team is still fighting for a place in next season's Champions League, a vast improvement on last year's 12th-place finish.

"He's a great manager and a great bloke, to be honest," West Ham striker Andy Carroll said of Bilic. "You can talk to him about football or not about football, and when it comes to games his tactics are spot-on. Every game, he takes each game as it comes and it's different tactics, different set-ups and different formations."

West Ham's best finish in the Premier League was fifth place in 1999. Before the Premier League was established, the team finished third in 1986.

Leicester's best finishes were eighth in the Premier League in 2000, and before that second in 1929.