Leicester must wrap up title by April, says Richard Buxton
Foxes can all but wrap up title by next month, and they'll want to do it by then
(Shinji Okazaki 25)
Leicester will soon be able to hail itself as the home of two kings.
Richard III's final resting place is set to become the new forwarding address for the English Premier League title; for now the football crown is officially Leicester City's to lose.
Five points clear at the summit, after Shinji Okazaki's overhead kick secured victory against Newcastle United yesterday morning (Singapore time), eight games are all that stand between Claudio Ranieri's side and immortality.
They might not even need it, in truth.
Those that have been hunting the Foxes have paid the price for their lethargy, of late.
Arsenal and Manchester City, 11 and 12 points adrift respectively, have sleepwalked out of the race.
Even Tottenham, the only challengers left standing, have struggled to maintain the pace.
It is clear to see why Alex Ferguson fully expects it to be all over, bar the shouting by the end of next month.
Sewing up the title before they travel to Old Trafford on May 1 would be galling for his former Manchester United team, previously accustomed to walking through Guards of Honour instead of forming them.
So, too, would taking their title triumph to Stamford Bridge, home to the reigning yet long dethroned EPL champions.
In between that fortnight is a visit to Goodison Park, which also suggests that Leicester's final three games, against United, Everton and Chelsea, are hardly ideal if a title-chasing team still require a hatful of points.
But Tottenham's unenviable run-in, which pits them against the likes of United, Stoke City and West Brom in the coming weeks, has made the coronation of Leicester increasingly likely.
Ferguson is well versed to assess title surges, having seen off threats from the likes of Liverpool and Newcastle during bygone times in the United hot seat. He also knows a thing or two about capitulation.
Blackburn Rovers may have defied his prophecy that they would "do a Devon Loch" - a reference to the racehorse who faltered badly on the home straight in the 1956 Grand National - in the race for the EPL title in the 1994-95 season, but plenty other would-be champions have managed to belly-flop with the finish line firmly in sight.
Leicester and Ranieri are all too aware of the ignominy associated with being pigeonholed alongside the likes of Newcastle and Kevin Keegan and Liverpool and Rafael Benitez in the annals of nearly-men in the EPL.
As the pressure cranked up, both famously buckled; each hoisted by their own petard.
Benitez became fixated with "facts", rather than Liverpool losing ground against the likes of Fulham and Hull, while Keegan focused on the thrill of Newcastle's "entertainers" pipping United to the title rather than how Ferguson's men had cut their previously unassailable 12-point lead down to size in the space of just two months.
Ranieri's self-effacing nature has removed the temptation of the reformed Tinkerman repeating his predecessor's schadenfreude moments. But, Devon Loch continues to loom large as the previously unfancied Foxes stand potentially five games from greatness.
Crystal Palace have previous form in unseating the momentum of a title challenge - just ask Liverpool.
Even with only eight points separating them from the basement, Swansea are far from home and dry and will be desperate to get something from their clash with the league leaders.
And Leicester will require little warning signs when they visit a relegation-threatened Sunderland, their rivals in last season's battle to beat the drop, in three weeks' time.
Vertigo has yet to disrupt Leicester's ascent, playing with a conviction that reflects their as-yet unnerved approach, but each upcoming fixture means even more pressure, and is just as losable as it is winnable.
No matter who the opposition.
Ranieri: stay calm and enjoy the ride
"The fans must dream and we must work. i’m pleased with our spirit."
- Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri
Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri claims he still refuses to look at the English Premier League table - despite the Foxes moving five points clear.
Shinji Okazaki's overhead kick earned a 1-0 win over Newcastle on Monday to condemn Rafa Benitez to defeat in his first game in charge of the Magpies.
The striker's fifth league goal of the season won a match where the hosts were not at their best again but ground out victory.
Leicester restored their comfortable advantage ahead of Saturday's trip to Crystal Palace but Ranieri insisted he is ignoring their position.
"No I don't look at the table, I look at the next match, Crystal Palace. Alan Pardew (Palace boss) was upstairs to watch us, it's another tough match," he said.
"We want to enjoy and want to continue, our fans are dreaming and are so proud of us.
"The fans must dream and we must work. I'm pleased with our spirit."
Tottenham's 2-0 win at Aston Villa last Sunday put pressure on Ranieri's men but they reacted and the Italian insisted points matter more than performances.
"We played our match and we won three points. At this point of the season, the points are important, not how you play," he said.
"Now it's important to stay calm. All the city is behind us pushing, we must stay calm and enjoy.
"It was a difficult match but we won. I know we played better against Aston Villa or West Brom but we drew both the matches.
"It was a tough match and we knew that, when a team changes a manager the players wants to show a fantastic attitude."
- PA Sport.