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Thursday , November 15 2018

Spurs happy to play catch up, Kane warns Leicester – Third-placed Arsenal have little margin for error

Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin (left), competes for the ball with West Bromwich Albion’s Jason McClean during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates Stadium in London on April 21. (AP)
Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin (left), competes for the ball with West Bromwich Albion’s Jason McClean during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates Stadium in London on April 21. (AP)

LONDON, April 22, (AFP): Harry Kane has warned leaders Leicester that title-chasing Tottenham are happy to play catch up as the race for the Premier League crown enters the final furlong.

For the second weekend in a row, second placed Tottenham, who host West Bromwich Albion on Monday, kick off 24 hours after Leicester, with Claudio Ranieri’s side at home to Swansea on Sunday.

But Kane insists the perceived burden of having to follow Leicester is actually a bonus because it gets his team’s juices flowing.

That Kane and company have no problem dealing with the pressure of trying to overhaul Leicester was clear to see last Monday when they won 4-0 at Stoke to take advantage of the leaders’ draw with West Ham the previous day.

Mauricio Pochettino’s team are now five points behind Leicester with four matches remaining and England forward Kane is hoping this weekend’s crucial fixtures follow a similar pattern.

“Watching all the football over the weekend and having to wait until Monday night to play, gets you ready, gets you firing,” Kane said.

“With more performances like against Stoke, I’m sure we’ll push them all the way.

“All we can do is keep doing what we’re doing. We want to win all four of our games.”

While Leicester will be without the suspended Jamie Vardy on Sunday after his dismissal for diving against West Ham, Tottenham have no such issues with the in-form Kane, who scored twice against Stoke to take his tally to a Premier League leading 24 goals this season.

Vardy’s ban could be extended after the England striker accepted a Football Association charge of misconduct for his angry reaction to the red card and Kane knows that would be a huge blow for the leaders, who face Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea in their final three matches.

“Obviously Leicester have got some tough games coming up,” he said.

“They’re in the driving seat. All we can do is keep winning.”

Vardy’s replacement against Swansea is likely to be Leonardo Ulloa, who came off the bench to score the last-gasp penalty that rescued a draw against West Ham.

Ulloa believes the way Leicester avoided defeat despite the stress of Vardy’s dismissal and the shock of conceding two late goals showed their desire to finish off the most unlikely title bid of all time.

Just 12 months ago, Leicester were engaged in a battle for relegation and they started this season as 5,000-1 outsiders for the title.

“We showed great character. I love to play with this team because we all fight together until the last minute,” Ulloa said.

“I didn’t think about the pressure of the situation. After I scored I felt how important the goal was. The feeling was so good.”

Manchester City warm up for their Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid by hosting Stoke in a less glamourous but still significant encounter.

Tuesday’s clash with Real has the star power, but Manuel Pellegrini’s fourth placed side also need to ensure they qualify for next season’s Champions League via a top four finish.

They are two points ahead of fifth placed Manchester United, who play in the FA Cup semi-finals against Everton on Saturday, so there is no room to be distracted by the Madrid match-up.

“Now almost everybody is back (from injury) and it gives a different feeling in the group,” City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne said.

In a fixture with significant implications at both ends of the table, Arsenal travel to Sunderland on Sunday.

The third placed Gunners bolstered their bid for a top four place with an Alexis Sanchez-inspired win over West Brom on Thursday, but they still have little margin for error against a Sunderland side desperate for points in their fight to avoid relegation.

Sunderland are one point from safety and with fourth bottom Norwich not playing this weekend, they would climb out of the bottom three with a draw or win against the Gunners.

Liverpool, back in the hunt for a European berth after their midweek demolition of Everton, host second bottom Newcastle, who are two points from safety.

“We are all happy and hopefully we can keep this good momentum going. We still have a lot to play for,” Liverpool midfielder Lucas said.

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