May 4, 2016

Leicester City: The 5,000-1 champions

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

The longest of long shots has actually paid off.

Yes, Leicester City, the team that bookies put at 5,000-1 odds to win the Premier League title pulled off the seemingly impossible this week. Thanks to the Foxes spirited 1-1 draw at Old Trafford and second-place Spurs also drawing against Chelsea, little Leicester has obtained an insurmountable lead atop the table.

This team was at the bottom of the table midway through last season and had to fight its way out of the relegation zone. This team was embroiled in controversy after a racist sex tape featuring several squad players was leaked in the summer. This team had far better odds to be playing in the Championship next season than in the Champions League, as it will be.

It’s the littlest engine that could, filled with castoffs and bargain players. The summer signings of Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs and N’Golo Kante didn’t make any big headlines, but they were all key to winning the title. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez were playing in lower-league sides before joining the Foxes and Mahrez didn’t even realize the city had a football team.

Danny Drinkwater and Marc Albrighton were Premier League retreads, let go from previous squads.

Now, all are champions in the toughest league in the world.

Congratulations, Leicester City. Your story is a true inspiration that anything can happen in sports.

And perhaps best of all, it just goes to show that hard work pays off and that our Road To Glory dreams while playing FIFA with Blackburn Rovers aren’t so farfetched after all.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

It didn’t take less than three minutes, like last time, but Sadio Mane scored a hat trick to earn our honours this week.

The Southampton winger took advantage of a very nonchalant Manchester City on his way to reaching double-digits on the season.

Mane has been in fantastic form over the past three games, scoring five goals – including one in a 22-minute substitute appearance against Aston Villa last week.

He might be a player to look at for your fantasy squad down the final stretch.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

With those crazy on odds on Leicester winning it all, you just know that some bookies got hosed. Reports are that $11.4 million was paid out on the bet in England. And when you consider that just $50 would net you $250,000, there are probably a few happy gamblers in the midlands … For the record, we didn’t predict that the Foxes would be relegated, like some did. We had them finishing 16th … Now what for Leicester, with two games to go? While it would be against their style to take it easy, I’d look for some subs to get more run and potential earn them their Premier League medals … On another day, we’d go on about the chippiness of that Spurs-Chelsea game. Tottenham had nine players booked, but none sent off – an EPL record. Although, we’ll likely see some retroactive punishment for Moussa Dembele’s eye gouge on Diego Costa and Eric Lamela’s stamp on Cesc Fabregas’ hand. My guess is that the players realized that their dream was dead and decided to lash out against their rivals … It was very apparent both City and Liverpool didn’t care too much for this week’s fixtures with key European ties looming. Those squads were sure losers when they stepped on the pitch.

RELEGATION ROUNDUP

Newcastle may have won this week to escape the relegation zone for now, but it could be in trouble when you consider that both Sunderland and Norwich have a game in hand. Of course, those teams have to take points from those games to actually make them worth something.

Norwich looked surprisingly good against an Arsenal team that seemed switched off for the first 60 minutes. The Canaries eventually conceded, but looked like they deserved a point.

Sunderland drew against Stoke, but is probably the best off due to their big lead in goal differential. The Black Cats are seven better In that category and will win any tiebreaker because of that.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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