The glass slipper in this Cinderella story still fits.
Leicester City officially qualified for the Champions League tournament in the 2016-2017 season after notching a key 2-0 win over Sunderland in Premier League play on Sunday.
The Foxes were aided by Tottenham’s 3-0 thrashing against injury-plagued Manchester United, which puts Leicester in position to finish no lower than fourth in the Premier League. That place means the club is guaranteed a spot in the qualifying round of Europe’s biggest competition.
It’s a miraculous change of fortunes for Claudio Ranieri’s underdog side. At this time last year, Leicester was fighting relegation. A year later, though, and they’re on the cusp of a Premier League title.
Leicester needs three more wins to clinch the league trophy for this year, and one more victory will guarantee a top-three finish. Forward Jamie Vardy has been the driving force behind Leicester’s success this season, ranking second behind Tottenham’s Harry Kane in scoring with 21 goals. Vardy scored both goals for Leicester, including a fantastic individual play that saw the forward race past the Sunderland defense to get a clear shot on net.
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) April 10, 2016
Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri was emotional during the match, shedding some tears once the result was official. Ranieri spoke about the possibility of the club winning the league title, but cautioned that his team should not look too far ahead yet.
“You make this job for the emotion you feel inside but it is difficult for me to tell you what kind. The fans must continue to dream but we must be concentrated and focused,” Ranieri said following the win, according to BBC Sport.
Leicester’s run towards the championship has been a big story all season. Tottenham’s crushing victory—their first at home against United in over a decade—kept them in the hunt, but the Spurs will need some major help for any chance at getting to the top. They’re seven points out of the lead with five games left, meaning the team needs a choke from Leicester down the stretch to get the trophy.
Leicester will play a tough but winnable match at home against West Ham next week, while Tottenham will match up with Stoke City. The biggest test for the Foxes? A titanic clash against Manchester United at Old Trafford, a worthy exclamation point on an already electric season.