Mar 11, 2016

    Foxes on a trot but Magpies just can't take flight


    A HAIR'S breadth separated Leicester City and Newcastle United at the end of the relegation battle last season but a 36-point chasm and a gulf in confidence exists between the sides ahead of Monday's Premier League clash.

    While Leicester's title challenge shows no sign of wilting as the inevitable pressure of the run-in continues to mount, Newcastle's season is seemingly skidding towards the abyss.

    It is by no means certain that Magpies manager Steve McClaren will still be in the dugout for the game at Leicester's King Power Stadium with his immediate future up in the air.

    A scheduled meeting with managing director Lee Charnley did not take place on Wednesday, according to media reports, with former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez strongly linked to the role should the club decide to end McClaren's stay at St James' Park.

    Despite spending heavily in the transfer window, Newcastle are 19th in the table, having been in the bottom three for 146 days this season.

    Confounding their doubters on a weekly basis, Leicester, who finished 14th and two points above Newcastle last season, are looking more like champions every match they play.

    They came through a testing February when they played Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal. They now need only to keep their heads over the final nine games to claim one of the most remarkable title triumphs in English football history.

    They could find their lead cut to two points, however, by the time they take the field as second-placed Tottenham Hotspur visit doomed bottom club Aston Villa on Sunday.

    Spurs, who face a testing trip to Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League (this morning, Singapore time), need to get back to winning ways swiftly if they are to maintain their pursuit, having taken one point from their last two games.

    It is a similar story for City, whose fading title hopes probably cannot survive a defeat at Norwich City tomorrow.

    City bounced back from a 3-0 defeat by Liverpool with a thumping 4-0 victory over Villa. But they still trail Leicester by 10 points, although they do have a game in hand.

    Third-placed Arsenal, whose challenge has fallen away in recent weeks after three games without a victory, are likely to drop further behind as they play Watford in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.