Leicester may have made a few enemies in the footballing world after sacking Claudio Ranieri but it is fair to say that right now they have made the correct decision as Craig Shakespeare’s managerial stint could not have gone any better. It’s three straight league wins since Shakespeare to charge of Leicester and that’s not forgetting their Champions League adventure continues when they face Atletico Madrid in the Quarter Finals.
Today they play host to Stoke and this rejuvenated Leicester side will look to not only put more daylight between themselves and the bottom three but also continue the perfect record of results since their change of manager. The Foxes currently find themselves 15th in the Premier League and a a win would take them to just three points behind Stoke and possibly as high as 11th.
You would imagine that should they win this afternoon although they will not be mathematically safe from the drop it would be a job very nearly done and with the momentum behind them at present then you cannot seem them being troubled with a relegation dog fight. Something that was not the case back in January/February.
Their last outing saw them travel to East London and get the better of West Ham in a 5 goal thriller at The London Stadium. They did look like they were coasting at 3-1 up but hard to withhold a late onslaught to make sure they came away with all three points. A mixture of poor finishing from The Hammers and goalkeeping heroics from Kasper Schmeichel meant that Leicester continued their current winning run.
Their opponents Stoke were the latest team to be rolled over by the all-conquering blue machine otherwise known as Chelsea before the international break. At one point they did look as if they were going to throw a spanner in the works when Jonathan Walters scored from the spot but they were undone by Gary Cahill’s late winner. Stoke certainly made it difficult for Chelsea but as they sign it’s a sign of champions if you can perhaps not play at your best and still grind out a win.
That defeat for Mark Hughes’ men sees them currently sit 9th which is the same place in which they have finished the past two seasons. Stoke fans will undoubtedly be pleased if they were to finish in that place again especially after their slow start to the campaign but you can also understand if fans will be frustrated by the lack of progress made under Mark Hughes. That said though the frustration does have to be tempered by the realistic fact that this is arguably the highest they can be right now.
If we remove the anomaly that was Leicester last season then the big clubs are not going to be collapsing en masse anytime soon and that all but locks out the first seven places, therefore the best that Stoke can really hope for is an 8th place finish but with them closer to Southampton in 10th then they are West Brom above them it looks like they are once again going to have to settle for an above average 9th place finish as the target.
If they are to keep hold of that 9th place berth then they will need to fend off the likes of Southampton, Bournemouth and West Ham United and the best way to do so is by obviously winning games like this. But with Leicester back to the kind of performances which saw them win the title last season that is going to be easier said than done and I can’t see anything other than a fourth straight league win for the defending champions.