There have been few greater stories in the history of English football than Leicester City winning the Premier League title, and their final home game of the season against Everton will be a chance for celebration as the supporters gather to provide their acclaim.
While many have felt for several weeks that the Foxes were destined for the top-flight crown, but only when it was confirmed thanks to Tottenham’s draw at Chelsea on Monday evening did the enormity of their achievement really sink in. It is up there with the biggest shocks in any sport, and is especially notable that it has been done over the course of a 38-game season.
Consistently, they have just been the best. It is no fluke; no gargantuan slice of fortune at a time where the usual protagonists have underachieved, just a very united group of talented players overcoming the riches of their rivals by finding a winning style of football and constantly executing it to perfection. There have been some standout performers who have already gained reward for their individual brilliance, but as a team effort Leicester have been unrivalled.
As for manager Claudio Ranieri, the way he has led the side through this incredible journey is truly admirable. His appointment last summer was met with shock in many quarters last summer and even disdain, but he could not have proven those doubters wrong any better. After this match, Wes Morgan will lift the Premier League trophy, and what an iconic image that would yield.
So much has been said, will be said and can be said about the club’s success, but as for the first of two remaining fixtures they still need to fulfil it does not promise to be a straightforward one against an Everton side with a good away record. But with just one home defeat all season and with the swagger that only being champions can bring, there is no reason to fear any opposing side. If they lose or produce a below-par display, they can blame it on the hangover effect.
In contrast, many followers of Everton are looking at their squad and the exploits of Leicester and wondering what might have been. They have underachieved to the extent that there is little to play for over the final week of the season and that a place in the top half looks unlikely at best, but boss Roberto Martinez needs a positive end to the season.
Last weekend against Bournemouth some discontented fans stayed behind after the final whistle to protest against the Spaniard, who despite his likeable nature has clearly lost the faith of a growing majority. They did actually win the match that preceded it in somewhat unconvincing fashion, while questions remain about the continued omission of leading scorer Romelu Lukaku in recent league outings. This day is all about Leicester, but the visitors need the win more.
Jamie Vardy is back for Leicester, who could include long-term absentee Matt James. Among those missing out are suspended duo Robert Huth and Daniel Drinkwater.
Ramiro Funes Mori completes a three-match ban for Everton, who are also without Gareth Barry, Seamus Coleman and Gerard Deulofeu.
Last Meeting: Leicester were playing their first Premier League match in 10 years when they faced Everton on the opening day of last season and scored an equaliser late on to earn a 2-2 draw. Record signing Leonardo Ulloa scored on his debut to cancel out Aiden McGeady’s strike for the away side, before a neat finish from Steven Naismith restored Everton’s lead. Nigel Pearson’s side did not threaten often after the break, but secured a point through substitute Chris Wood.