Leicester’s players in spotlight

first_img Last-place Aston Villa are heading into their home match against Chelsea without a manager following the departure of Remi Garde on Tuesday. With seven games left, Villa are 12 points from safety and has only won three league games all season. MANCHESTER, England (AP): There have been considerable knock-on effects for Leicester following the team’s giddy rise to the top of the English Premier League. A ramping-up of global interest and adulation? Definitely. Qualification to the Champions League for the first time? Almost certainly, especially if the surprise leaders beat Southampton at home on Sunday. Then there’s growing international recognition for their star players. On Tuesday, England started with two Leicester players in this case, Jamie Vardy and debutant Danny Drinkwater for the first time in 42 years in the 2-1 loss to the Netherlands. And on the same night, N’Golo Kante, Leicester’s enforcer in central midfield, made his full debut for France on his 25th birthday and marked it by scoring one of the goals in a 4-2 win over Russia. “Things are going fast,” said Kante, who was playing for Caen in France’s second tier only three years ago. “I wouldn’t have said it was possible four or five years ago,” said Vardy, a goalscorer against the Dutch and a striker who once worked in a carbon-fibre factory. Leicester’s fans will be saying the same kind of things. After narrowly escaping relegation last season because of an incredible run of results in the final nine games, Leicester are mounting the most unlikely of title challenges and are five points clear of second-place Tottenham with seven games left. The club has never won a top-flight English league title. Training would have been unusually quiet for Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri over the recent international break, given the increased number of national-team call-ups. Ranieri, therefore, must reignite the team’s momentum from before the two-week hiatus ahead of the biggest six weeks in the club’s 132-year history. Southampton could be one of the toughest remaining opponents for Leicester, with the visitors from the south coast having won their last two games to climb within four points of the Champions League places. But Leicester are showing remarkable resilience under pressure, winning its last three matches 1-0. “They’ve been the best team this season, without question,” Alex Ferguson, a managerial great in English soccer, has told Sky Sports, “and they deserve to win it.” Tottenham would pile the pressure on Leicester by beating Liverpool tomorrow, a day before Leicester play. MAN CITY’S REINFORCEMENTS In danger of dropping out of the top four, out-of-form Manchester City have been handed a much-needed boost on the injury front. Three midfielders Samir Nasri, Kevin De Bruyne and Fabian Delph were back in training this week after long injury layoffs and could be in line to play against Bournemouth tomorrow. De Bruyne’s return after two months out with damaged ankle and knee ligaments is especially important for City, who have not scored in their last three matches and have been short of creativity. City broke their transfer record last August to sign De Bruyne for more than US$77 million. City are in fourth place the final Champions League qualification position and only one point ahead of West Ham and Manchester United. West Ham host Crystal Palace tomorrow and Manchester United are at home to Everton on Sunday. MANAGERLESS VILLAlast_img read more

Spain not taking India lightly in Davis Cup tie: Rafael Nadal

first_imgSpain may be overwhelming favourites in their upcoming Davis Cup World Group Play-off against India, but their star player Rafael Nadal is in no mood to take the hosts lightly.India, spearheaded by the veteran Leander Paes, will field Saketh Myneni and Ramkumar Ramanathan in the singles matches against 14-time Grand Slam winner Nadal and World No.13 David Ferrer. (Also read: Rafael Nadal in focus as Spain gear up for Davis Cup tie against India)The Indian doubles combination, traditionally the strong point of the hosts, has been weakened by the withdrawal of Rohan Bopanna due to injury.As a result, Paes is slated to take on the mighty Spanish along with the relatively inexperienced Myneni.However, Nadal asserted that with Spain losing World Group Play-offs to comparitive minnows Brazil and Germany in the past couple of years, the visitors are reluctant to let go of their chance to make a return to the World Group.”It is always difficult to play someone in front of his home crowd. The conditions are dangerous. The Davis Cup is always a special thing. In the past we lost a couple of confrontations that we were favourites and we were in a good position to win. So we have maximum respect for all our opponents,” Nadal told reporters here on Tuesday.”Our immediate target is to return to the World Group. Spain has been out of the World Group for a couple of years and we would like to be back there.””We have squandered opportunities in the past to be in the World Group and this time we are hoping that we can achieve our goal,” he added. (Also read: Injured Rohan Bopanna pulls out of Davis Cup tie against Spain)advertisement”Away ties are specially difficult and we will have to be at our best.”Spain have brought a star-studded squad for this tie, which includes, apart from Nadal, Ferrer and the doubles duo of Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez.”We have good team. We have a team that really wants to be here and give their best. I think that a team like Spain should be in the World Group and that is why we are here,” Nadal said.”Excited to be back in India. I know these players have been practicing here but we will be ready for the confrontation.”Nadal, who has been struggling with injuries recently, asserted that he has now recovered and is ready to give his best for his country.”I am happy to be back. I had a tough two months and I am happy to be back where I want to be — on the tennis court,” the 30-year-old said.”I have been playing in the Davis Cup since I was 17. It is a special feeling to represent your country and there have been some great moments. We had some great success in this competition,” he added.”It is always a special feeling to play for your country.”Spain’s non-playing captain Conchita Martinez meanwhile, opined that the conditions in the capital are quite tough, but the visitors are ready for the challenge. (Also read: Leander Paes wants to learn from Rafael Nadal)”Its very humid and quite hot but we will play at a time when the heat will be down a bit. The surface is playing okay and we have time to get used to it,” Martinez said.”I think these play on the tour the whole year. The conditions are hard in Australia, at the US Open, in Cincinnati. If we had to play during the day, these players I am sure would have been ready,” she added.”As for our return to the World Group, I don’t think there’s anxiety in the team. We are ready to win this tie and and hopefully we will be back in the World Group. That is our ambition.”last_img read more