Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld accepts “unbelievable” Leicester have the destiny of the Barclays Premier League title in their hands – but promised Mauricio Pochettino’s young side will return stronger next season.
The Foxes remained seven points clear at the Barclays Premier League summit after the top two both won at the weekend, while third-placed Arsenal lost more ground following a draw at West Ham.
Leicester were fighting against relegation this time last term, but three more wins out of the final five matches and they will be champions, regardless of other results.
Alderweireld concedes it is a big ask to overhaul such a deficit, but believes the experiences of an unexpected title push can only stand Spurs in good stead for future challenges.
In an interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, the Belgian was asked if he thinks second place would be viewed as a failure. He said: “No, I do not. However, naturally if you are so close, you want more.
“To be the champions would be great, and we are working very hard to finish in the top three.
“We have direct qualification for the Champions League in our hands and we want to hold on to it.
“The Champions League will make our young group stronger.”
Alderweireld feels the title must now be considered Leicester’s to lose.
“The title is difficult. Leicester has everything in hand,” added the 27-year-old, who scored Spurs’ second goal in Sunday’s 3-0 home win over Manchester United.
“However, we want to win the last five games to increase the pressure on Leicester and keep the pursuers behind us.”
Leicester could extend their lead further this weekend, as they host West Ham on Sunday before Tottenham head to Stoke on Monday night.
Alderweireld says Claudio Ranieri’s well-drilled side deserved all credit for their transformation.
“What Leicester are doing is unbelievable,” he said. “In one year they have gone from a candidate for relegation to become the title favourites.
“Leicester have made some good purchases and players like Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez are in the form of their lives. It’s a very good, stable team.”
Alderweireld believes when the lucrative new television deal kicks in next season, more clubs will find themselves able to compete.
“This says everything about the Premier League; because of the enormous TV rights, the so-called smaller clubs also have the resources to purchase outstanding players and this allows anyone to beat anyone.
“I don’t think this is frustrating – it is just the reality now.”