Belfast Telegraph

Leicester 0-0 Manchester City: Foxes draw with Blues to go level on points with Arsenal

Leicester finished 2015 level on points with Arsenal at the top of the Barclays Premier League after a goalless draw with Manchester City at the King Power Stadium.

The stalemate leaves Leicester second in the table behind the Gunners on goal difference, completing an amazing turnaround from 12 months ago when the Foxes were bottom of the standings.

After defeat at Anfield on Boxing Day, some questioned the title credentials of Claudio Ranieri's team but they silenced their critics with another superb performance on Tuesday night as they more than held their own against many people's favourites for the crown.

City stay third and without an away win in the league in six outings since a 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace on September 12.

The two teams had cancelled each other out, and Leicester had marshalled the threat of Raheem Sterling well, until the 18th minute. It was then that Sterling caught Bacary Sagna's ball over the top into space and teed-up Kevin De Bruyne, whose first-time shot from the edge of the area was parried away by Kasper Schmeichel.

It signalled the start of an assertive spell from City, only briefly interrupted when Aleksandar Kolarov got himself in a tangle and Riyad Mahrez curled a shot narrowly over the crossbar.

City got in down the right again before the half-hour mark following good link up play between Sagna and De Bruyne. Sterling took a pass on his chest and, losing his balance, hit a volley but Schmeichel got a hand on the ball and it spun past the far post.

Sterling threatened again in the 32ndminute when Schmeichel had to help his left-foot shot from the edge of the box over the crossbar.

Leicester survived the spell of pressure unscathed and finished the first half strongly. Christian Fuchs turned away from De Bruyne and delivered a beautiful cross from the left which just eluded Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton in the six-yard box.

Four minutes before half-time Vardy was presented with a glorious chance to score - an opportunity he has buried many times already this season. Fernandinho dallied and lost possession 30 yards out, allowing Danny Drinkwater to put Vardy clear on goal but the Premier League's top scorer uncharacteristically blazed his shot over the crossbar.

There was more ebb and flow about the second half as chances went begging at both ends.

Sergio Aguero flicked a near-post effort just wide straight after the restart before N'Golo Kante soon had Joe Hart worried with a dipping 25-yard shot.

Albrighton scuffed his shot wide from a good position inside the penalty area while back at the other end Schmeichel had to push away a Nicolas Otamendi header.

A brilliant pass from Drinkwater gave Vardy another sight of goal but his shot was straight at Hart, who then did well to repel a powerfully-struck Fuchs free-kick in the 76th minute.

Both sides had spells of late pressure but neither could make the breakthrough and a draw was a fair result.

Pre-match build-up

Pellegrini taking nothing for granted

Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini is convinced Leicester have what it takes to stay the course in the title race.

Pellegrini has warned his players they must approach Tuesday's trip to the King Power Stadium as they would any other top-of-the-table showdown.

The Foxes were the Barclays Premier League's surprise leaders at Christmas and they held onto that spot on Boxing Day despite slipping up at Liverpool.

That was only their second defeat of a campaign in which City - many people's favourites for the crown - have already lost five times and Pellegrini does not believe one bad result will prompt the slump some predict.

Pellegrini, whose side moved within three points of Leicester by thrashing Sunderland 4-1 on Saturday, said: "Before that they beat Chelsea and drew against (Manchester) United.

"We must consider Leicester not thinking that they lost on Saturday and could collapse, but as a team that will have options to be fighting for the title until the end. With that mentality we must try to play the game.

"They are top of the table because they deserve to be. They have important players in a very good moment with high performance."

Leicester's remarkable rise has been fuelled by the form of attack duo Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. Vardy was the competition's leading scorer with 15 goals after 18 games with Mahrez just two behind. In addition Mahrez had weighed in with seven assists and Vardy three.

Yet while they may provide a lot of the spark for Claudio Ranieri's side, Pellegrini is aware there is much more to the team.

The Chilean said: "Maybe both of them are in a very good performance but I don't think they could do it if the complete team was not performing well. They are important players but we must think a lot of different things and not just two players.

"We must think about Leicester as a team and hope if we repeat the performance we did on Saturday we can beat them - but it will be a very tough game."

City got back on track against Sunderland after a disappointing loss to Arsenal last Monday.

The gloss was taken off that victory, however, by the loss of captain Vincent Kompany with a recurrence of a calf injury just nine minutes after coming on for his first appearance in nine games.

City are again likely to be without the key defender although the full extent of the problem is not yet clear.

The other main concern is striker Sergio Aguero, who looked ineffectual on his return from a heel injury against Arsenal and did not get off the bench in the Sunderland game.

But Pellegrini said: "Kun was on the bench because if we needed him he could have played in the second half, but we have to play Leicester three days later - a difficult game - and 10 games during January.

"He had a small problem so I think it was better not to take any risk and we were winning 3-0 at half-time, so I think it was better for him to rest. He will be 100 per cent on Tuesday."

Ranieri urges Foxes to enjoy themselves

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri has urged his players to enjoy their football and not be daunted by their place in the upper echelons of the Barclays Premier League ahead of Manchester City's visit.

The Foxes have had a superb first half of the campaign and will have the chance to end 2015 top of the pile with a win over City after Arsenal knocked them into second place with their victory over Bournemouth on Monday.

Pressure will only increase as the second half of the season begins to tick down and Ranieri is keen to avoid a repeat of what he saw at Liverpool on Boxing Day, where his side were over-anxious.

"You know my idea about this (the title) - we are dreaming," said the Italian.

"We are in good condition and in a good position with 38 points.

"Now we can continue, but I want to see my players enjoy it. I don't know why we were so nervous at the beginning. Why?

"Play football, don't worry. If you lose, lose. That's it. We have the time."

Despite Ranieri's assertions, City boss Manuel Pellegrini is convinced Leicester have what it takes to stay the course in the title race.

Pellegrini has warned his players they must approach Tuesday's trip to the King Power Stadium as they would any other top-of-the-table showdown.

The Foxes' loss at Liverpool was only their second defeat of a campaign in which City have already been beaten five times and Pellegrini does not believe one bad result will prompt a slump.

Pellegrini, whose side moved within three points of Leicester by thrashing Sunderland 4-1 on Saturday, said: "Before that they beat Chelsea and drew against (Manchester) United.

"We must consider Leicester not thinking that they lost on Saturday and could collapse, but as a team that will have options to be fighting for the title until the end. With that mentality we must try to play the game.

"They are top of the table because they deserve to be. They have important players in a very good moment with high performance."

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