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Wed Aug 24 18:14:19 CAT 2016

Rested Premier League leaders Leicester aim to put squeeze on title rivals

REUTERS | 25 February, 2016 15:55
Leicester City's Italian manager Claudio Ranieri (L) gestures as he talks with Leicester City's Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez (2L) and Leicester City's English striker Jamie Vardy (R) during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Leicester at the Emirates Stadium in London on February 14, 2016.
Image by: GLYN KIRK / AFP

Leicester City can put some distance between themselves and the chasing pack in the Premier League title race on Saturday when they return to action after having a two-week break.

Victory for Claudio Ranieri's side at home to relegation-threatened Norwich City would open a provisional five-point gap over Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, who both play on Sunday having been involved in energy-sapping midweek European games.

The fixtures could not have worked out better for Leicester, who suffered a last-gasp 2-1 defeat at Arsenal in their previous match, cutting their lead over the Gunners to two points before Spurs moved into second spot with a win at Manchester City.

Their next nine league matches are against teams currently outside the top five before they face Manchester United on April 30 and finish with games at home to Everton and away to Chelsea.

The Foxes are out of the domestic cup competitions so they can focus exclusively on their unexpected title tilt.

Leicester took the lead at Arsenal through Jamie Vardy's penalty but were reduced to 10 men in the second half when Danny Simpson was sent off and were out on their feet by the time Danny Welbeck floored them with a stoppage-time winner.

After wins against Liverpool and Manchester City in the previous two games, it looked as though the cracks might finally start to show after an incredible campaign.

But thanks to their early FA Cup loss to Spurs, Leicester's players were given a week of rest and recuperation by the canny Ranieri before returning to the training ground on Monday.

Their title rivals will have all played three matches in that time with Arsenal suffering a 2-0 home defeat by Barcelona and Tottenham hosting Fiorentina in the Europa League, last 32, second leg on Thursday having drawn 1-1 last week.

Fourth-placed Manchester City, who made the long trip to Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday and came away with a good 3-1 win, could slip further off the pace as they are preoccupied with the League Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley on Sunday.

The visit of Norwich represents the beginning of a four-game window of opportunity for Leicester in which they can really put the squeeze on the clubs immediately below them.

After that they host struggling West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday, go to Watford the following weekend and then are at home to another side near the bottom in Newcastle United.

During that period Spurs must visit in-form West Ham United and host local rivals Arsenal, while the latter face a tricky trip to fifth-placed Manchester United this Sunday.

Tottenham, in the hunt for a first league title since they won the domestic double in 1961, lost to visiting Crystal Palace in the FA Cup last weekend, ending an eight-match unbeaten run, and will be determined to beat Swansea City on Sunday.

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