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Martinez says Leicester exception to the rule

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Everton's Spanish manager Roberto Martinez awaits kick off in the English Premier League football match between Everton and Southampton at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on April 16, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Paul ELLIS /

Everton’s Spanish manager Roberto Martinez awaits kick off in the English Premier League football match between Everton and Southampton at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on April 16, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Paul ELLIS /

Everton manager Roberto Martinez said Thursday that Leicester City winning the Premier League this season was an “inspiration” to other clubs but warned against another ‘underdog’ champion any time soon.

Martinez’s men will be the opponents at Leicester’s King Power Stadium on Saturday when the Foxes are presented with the Premier League trophy after second-placed Tottenham Hotspur’s draw with Chelsea on Monday meant the leaders could no longer be caught.

Leicester’s success after being 5,000/1 rank outsiders in pre-season, has been one of the most remarkable sports stories of them all.

But it has also thrown a sharp spotlight on the performances of other clubs in the top flight, with many Everton fans aggrieved that their own club has not been challenging for the title in a season where defending champions Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United have all fallen behind Leicester.

Everton are currently 11th in the 20-strong division, with many fans calling for Martinez to go, but the Toffees boss said replicating Leicester’s feat would be no easy task.

“What Leicester have achieved is a great inspiration for any team sport and for any group in order to dream high and have huge expectations but I think we need to be realistic that this is not the norm,” he said.

“It’s something we haven’t seen in the modern game and I don’t think that’s going to be repeated easily.”

Leicester beat Everton 3-2 at Goodison Park in December in the reverse fixture. They were leading the table at that point but Martinez was one of many football figures who thought their title challenge would evaporate.

“Looking at the teams that were competing against Leicester at that point, you felt it was still a long battle to go,” he said. “Looking at the incredible intensity Leicester were playing at, there was a question mark.

“They were in an unknown situation fighting for the title and you don’t know how the team is going to react and if they’re going to keep that intensity and I think that’s where it’s been a remarkable journey for Claudio Ranieri and his men to be able to maintain that intensity, that concentration and that togetherness.”

Everton ended a run of seven league games without a victory by defeating Bournemouth last weekend.

A finish in the top half of the table is still possible for the Merseysiders but Martinez was wary of suggestions that Leicester’s week of title celebrations would make them any easier to beat this Saturday.

“I’m sure any sort of celebration could affect you in the long term if you had to face a difficult month. In a 90-minute game where the stadium is going to be an historic environment, I’m sure that can only be positive for the home team,” said the Spaniard.

“Clearly they’re going to be playing with swagger. We’ll congratulate them and from that point on we’ll focus on trying to perform against them.”



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