In Brief

Vardy boost for Leicester ahead of Premier League showdowns

Games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal will decided whether the Foxes are genuine title challengers

With the distraction of the transfer window now passed, all eyes are back on the Premier League and surprise package Leicester City are back in the spotlight as they enter a 12-day period likely to determine whether or not they are genuine title contenders.

The Foxes have a three-point cushion going into tonight's fixtures, but their next three games could make all the difference.

Claudio Ranieri's men start with a home match against Liverpool tonight, followed with away games against Manchester City and Arsenal. If things unravel, they could find themselves six points behind the league leaders by Valentine's Day.

"Think they are bound to falter? Think again," says Amy Lawrence in The Guardian. "Of course, this being unscripted sport none of us have the slightest clue really, but the big positive Leicester have going for them is they were supposed to drop off a cliff once already this season and they managed to maintain their footing."

But even Lawrence can't help suggest that Champions League qualification is a more realistic aim than the title. But even that would be quite an achievement.

"English football's modern history has no precedent for a club outside the traditional power bases, one without a domestic title on its honours board, qualifying for the Champions League. It has never happened before," she says. "The weeks ahead offer tantalising opportunity. A shot at history."

But history suggests they could still win the title, says Jonathan Pearce of the BBC. "Only Manchester City have topped the Premier League table for longer than the Foxes this campaign and the side entering February top has a habit of winning the Premier League," he says.

They will, though, face their "toughest examination so far" over the coming fortnight.

However, Leicester are expected to get another boost as Jamie Vardy signs a new three-and-a-half year deal worth £70,000-a-week with the league leaders, having resisted the charms of Chelsea and Manchester City in the January transfer window.

The striker is the Premier League's top scorer with 16 goals and Leicester "have moved to reward him for an excellent second season in the top flight", says John Percy of the Daily Telegraph. "Vardy's old deal does not run out until June 2018 but the new terms will represent a significant improvement in salary."

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