Leicester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Leicester winger Marc Albrighton says the shock Premier League leaders are feeling unbeatable as they march towards the most remarkable title triumph in the history of English football.
Claudio Ranieri’s side need three wins from their remaining five matches to be crowned top-flight champions for the first time and the countdown to that incredible coronation continues on Sunday when West Ham visit the King Power Stadium.
After stunning the Premier League with their surge to the top of the table earlier this season, Leicester were widely expected to fade away when the pressure of the title run-in mounted.
But instead the Foxes, beaten just three times this term, have proved impervious to nerves during a remarkable run of six wins and only two goals conceded in their last seven matches.
That blistering sequence has given Leicester a seven-point lead over second placed Tottenham and put the title within touching distance just 12 months after the unfashionable club were battling to avoid relegation.
Establishing the secret of Leicester’s astonishing success in Ranieri’s first season in charge has become a favourite discussion for pundits and fans alike in recent weeks.
But Albrighton, 26, has a simple answer, insisting Leicester are being driven by a wave of confidence that has grown stronger each week as they realise they are good enough to compete with the league’s best.
“Yes, to some extent, I would say we feel unbeatable,” Albrighton said.
“The position we are in and keeping the clean sheets, that is one of the main factors.
“If you are not conceding goals then you are not going to lose games. We have the quality up front to go and score.
“The team spirit is what has got us here. We have brilliant individuals, but there is no point having them if we are not going to play as a team.
“It’s massive that we are keeping a winning habit going. If we continue to do that everything will look after itself.”
– Shrewd figure –
It helps that former Chelsea boss Ranieri has emerged as such a shrewd figure after years of being derided as an eccentric ‘tinkerman’ and serial failure at the highest level.
Ranieri’s engaging personality and quirky press conferences have kept the pressure off his players despite the growing realisation that the title is theirs to lose.
Even now, with the title in reach, the Italian wisely side-steps questions about Leicester’s ability to successfully finish off their historic season.
But, with Champions League qualification secured by last weekend’s win at Sunderland, Albrighton acknowledges the focus is now firmly on lifting the Premier League trophy, even if he finds it almost unthinkable that they could complete such a feat.
“Massively, it doesn’t feel real,” he said. “A lot of us have not been in this position before. We’ve just got to enjoy it and embrace it.
“It’s fantastic for us and for me personally it’s an unbelievable feeling that we have secured Champions League football for next season.
“We do want to go that one step further. We have this as a cushion and now we can push on.”
Leicester’s fairytale season has overshadowed an almost as unexpected renaissance in east London, where Slaven Bilic has transformed West Ham into one of the league’s most eye-catching teams in his first season in charge.
Bilic wants more than plaudits though and, with his side five points behind fourth placed Manchester City, he is determined to make a final push for Europe despite a frustrating run of three successive league draws and a midweek FA Cup quarter-final defeat against Manchester United.
“Of course we are disappointed, but we are in a great position in the league,” Bilic said.
“We have six games left and we are totally motivated, we want to finish high.
“It’s a few weeks of our lives and we have to do everything we can.”