When Danny Welbeck rose above the Leicester defence and headed in Arsenal’s dramatic winner, you could almost hear a country-wide hiss, as a nation of neutrals were suddenly left deflated.
The timing of the goal and the magnitude of the game led many to think that the Foxes had blown their chance at the title, but if you distance yourself from the drama of that particular game and think of Leicester’s performances in the three (Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal) that were labelled as fixtures that would make or break their season, then a considerably rosier picture is painted. Ranieri’s men picked up six points from a possible nine, a terrific return and one that if you offered it to the affable Italian beforehand I am sure he would have gratefully accepted.
Leicester can now focus on getting their title challenge back on track and have the best circumstances possible to do so; after a week’s rest while title rivals exerted themselves in the FA Cup, Leicester will welcome Norwich to the King Power Stadium.
Claudio Ranieri has played down the fact that his Foxes side will be seen as overwhelming favourites saying “I told them the Arsenal match is easier than against Norwich.”
Norwich have not won in their last seven games, the highlight of that dismal run coming in the last round of fixtures where the Canaries drew 2-2 at home to West Ham. After looking like a competitive, determined side for much of the campaign, Alex Neil’s men look like they are in freefall.
Only a slightly better goal difference separates them from Newcastle in the relegation zone. Having conceded seventeen goals in their last six league games Norwich look woefully incapable of keeping the Leicester attacking forces, that have captivated the nation, at bay.
Norwich fans may be able to take solace in that they have attracted Ivan Pinto and Timm Klose, two defenders of Champions League pedigree, and have now had over a week of uninterrupted training and should now be better integrated into the group, although whether they will be able to keep the devastating duo of Mahrez and Vardy, who have outscored the entire Norwich squad between them, subdued is debatable.
Ranieri will have to alter his defensive line-up due to the suspension of Danny Simpson, he may opt for new signing Daniel Amartey or stick with Marcin Wasilewski, who many have identified as the culprit in the Arsenal defeat, after a rash late challenge.
Visitors Norwich will sweat over the fitness of defender Andre Wisdom, although will be able to employ midfield destroyer Alex Tettey.
The general consensus is that as the finishing line comes closer into view, the nerves amongst the Leicester players will become unbearable, Saturday’s fixture will provide the ideal opportunity to continue to confound their critics.
Probable Leicester City XI: Schmeichel, Amartey, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs, Drinkwater, Kante, Albrighton, Mahrez, Okazaki, Vardy.