MANCHESTER, England (AP) - Leicester’s players are getting ready for another big party - and this time the fans are invited.
Images of the Leicester squad celebrating its unlikely Premier League title triumph in Jamie Vardy’s house on Monday night were posted on social media and went global. Wes Morgan, Leicester’s captain, was filmed being spun around the kitchen floor while jubilant teammates danced around him, savoring one of the greatest-ever sporting stories.
On Saturday, Morgan will have the honor of lifting the Premier League trophy in front of more than 30,000 fans at Leicester’s atmospheric King Power Stadium. Add Morgan’s name to the likes of Manchester United’s Roy Keane, Arsenal’s Tony Adams and Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany, some of the other inspirational captains to have got their hands on English soccer’s biggest prize.
The Leicester story is rich with feel-good tales, notably Vardy’s rise from playing non-league soccer to being English champion in the space of five years. Morgan’s back-story is also one to gladden the heart, too.
The 32-year-old center back was released by Notts County as a youngster and also had to start again in the non-leagues. He got another chance in the professional ranks, this time with Nottingham Forest in 2001, but was overweight and was worked extra hard by the club’s fitness staff.
He became a mainstay of Forest’s team for a decade before moving to Leicester in 2012, and only got his first taste of top-flight soccer at the age of 30. He was error-prone in the early stages of last season but is now a commanding presence in the defense alongside fellow center back Robert Huth.
Leicester will be presented with the trophy after Saturday’s match against Everton, which will be as much a celebration as a game of football.
“I’m just going to try and hold back the tears,” Morgan said. “I think it’s going to be very emotional. It’s the biggest moment of my life. I can’t wait to lift the trophy and get my hands on it.”
There’s another treat for Leicester fans on Saturday: Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli will sing before the game, honouring a commitment he gave to Ranieri in a conversation six weeks ago if Leicester went on to win the Premier League.
Leicester, a 5,000-1 longshot for the title at the start of the season, has achieved the unthinkable with two games still to play. For many other teams in the Premier League, there’s still plenty at stake.
RACE FOR CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Leicester and second-place Tottenham are already guaranteed to be playing in the Champions League next season. There is a massive scrap behind them for the other two berths in Europe’s top club competition, and some big teams are going to miss out.
Arsenal and Manchester City currently occupy third and fourth place, and they meet at City’s Etihad Stadium on Sunday. A loss for City could leave the team in danger of being caught by Manchester United and West Ham, who are fifth and sixth respectively and have games in hand on Arsenal and City.
City’s other avenue for Champions League qualification - by winning the competition this season - was closed off when City was eliminated by Real Madrid in the semifinals on Wednesday, losing 1-0 in the return leg.
United has a hard match away to relegation-threatened Norwich and West Ham hosts Swansea, which is already safe. United and West Ham play each other next week in their penultimate game.
FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL
The fight to avoid relegation to the Championship is just as tight, with two of Newcastle, Norwich and Sunderland set for the drop and just two points separating them.
Norwich (31 points) and Sunderland (32 points) are currently in the relegation zone, with Newcastle in 17th place on 33 points having played a game more.
Newcastle is away to already-relegated Aston Villa and Sunderland hosts Chelsea.
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