MANCHESTER, England (AP):It sums up the erratic nature of this season’s Premier League that a match between Chelsea and Manchester United has been relegated to a mere sideshow just as the title race is getting interesting.Instead, this weekend is all about whether Leicester can pull off their biggest shock yet and finally be recognised as genuine title contenders.Leicester, which battled relegation all of last season, take a three-point lead to Manchester City today in a match between the top-two sides in the league. A victory would guarantee Leicester at least a five-point lead with 13 matches remaining.Surely that would make the team favourites for the title, and set up one of the most unlikely storyline in English football history.”It’s not a coincidence we’re top of the table,” Leicester midfielder Danny Drinkwater said. “This is team spirit at its highest. We won’t stop believing.”We’re staying on the ground, but if we carry on the way we are, then why not have the belief (to win the league)? It would go down in history surely.”Even a draw would be fine for Leicester, which visit another title challenger in Arsenal the following weekend before a benign run of games.City, though, will want to send a message to Leicester’s upstarts and collect a fourth straight win in all competitions to take over in first place on goal difference.Seeking a third league title in five years, City have extra motivation for the run-in – giving departing coach Manuel Pellegrini a successful send-off after it was announced this week that Pep Guardiola would the club’s manager from next season.”Manchester (City) are built to win the title, to win the Champions League,” Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri said Thursday as he continued to downplay his team’s chances of winning the league.Asked who will win the title, Ranieri chuckled and said with a smile: “The others.”City said Thursday that captain Vincent Kompany is back in training after a six-week lay-off with a calf injury.Chelsea – the defending champions – and Manchester United – a record 20-time champion – already are also-rans in the title race, although United will boost their ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League with a win at Stamford Bridge tomorrow. United are in fifth place, five points off the Champions League qualification spots and 10 points behind Leicester.Chelsea are 13th and can probably forget about making up ground to the European positions in the top five.Arsenal are winless in their last four league games and have dropped to fourth, behind Tottenham on goal difference, ahead of a visit to Bournemouth tomorrow.Also today, it’s: Liverpool vs. Sunderland; Aston Villa vs Norwich; Newcastle vs West Bromwich Albion; Swansea vs Crystal Palace; and Southampton vs West Ham.
Month: February 2020
MUMBAI, India (AP):Chris Gayle hopes to smash another century when West Indies returns at the Wankhede Stadium tomorrow for their World Twenty20 semi-final against India.Gayle’s 47-ball century against England gave West Indies a winning momentum in the tournament before Afghanistan broke the three-match winning sequence of the 2012 champions on a turning wicket at Nagpur.”This is a perfect opportunity to actually start the tournament and try and pick up where I left off, get a big one for the team and put them in a winning position,” Gayle said yesterday.A niggling hamstring injury denied Gayle a chance to bat against Sri Lanka. He returned against South Africa but lasted only two deliveries – flicking the first one for four before getting clean bowled off the next ball.He was then rested against Afghanistan in their last last group match.POWER HITTINGBut the batting-friendly wickets in Mumbai with short square boundaries ideally suits the power hitting of Gayle as West Indies raced to 183-4 against England with 11 balls to spare.South Africa also twice scored over 200 runs at the Wankhede Stadium. However, first England denied the Proteas with the second highest ever successful chase of 230-8 and then Afghanistan put up a brisk start before losing by 37 runs in pursuit of South Africa’s 209-5.In the absence of at least two key players leg-spinner Sunil Narine and all-rounder Kieron Pollard, West Indies have ousted South Africa and defending champions Sri Lanka from the tournament.”That goes to show the strength of West Indies cricket back home,” Gayle said. “The guys who actually replaced the first picks, someone like Carlos Brathwaite, he won us the game against South Africa … and the bench is still strong enough.”Gayle said that six-run defeat against Afghanistan has only increased the motivation of West Indies to do well in the semi-final.”The only positive you can look from the Afghanistan game is the motive,” Gayle said.”We saw India bounce back from losing games as well, so it can put us in a strong position as well to actually lift our game and do better on Thursday.”Virat Kohli has been key in guiding the host into the semi-finals with his two masterful half centuries against arch-rivals Pakistan and an unbeaten 82 off 51 balls in the do-or-die last group match against Australia.Gayle was not surprised by the sublime form of India’s master middle-order batsman, who has scored 184 runs at an impressive average of 92.00.”No surprise there. I have said it over the years he is going to be the world beater he is today,” he said.”He has been fantastic right through the year. He has been in great form. He can still get runs but in a losing cause. We’ll be happy with that as well.”- AP