POOR CHANCES FOR UNITED LONDON (AP): Leicester’s first target was exceeded long ago: Premier League survival. Another landmark was achieved yesterday: Champions League qualification for the first time. By the end of the month, Leicester should have secured the prize once simply unthinkable for such a team: the Premier League trophy itself. Jamie Vardy’s double at Sunderland sealed a 2-0 victory that guaranteed a coveted top-four finish. Leicester remain seven points clear at the top and are starting to resemble a Premier League thoroughbred with their effortless march to a first title. This isn’t what a title run-in should look like for a team yet to win the league title in its 132-year history and were in a relegation scrap this time last season. Tottenham are waiting to pounce on any slip-up by Leicester. The second-place London club responded to Leicester’s Sunderland success by ending a 15-year wait for a home win over Manchester United. A 3-0 victory was secured by Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela scoring within five minutes, 46 seconds in the second half. It pushed Tottenham a step closer to joining Leicester in the Champions League next season, having only featured in Europe’s top competition once before. United look unlikely to be with them, given that cross-town rivals Manchester City are four points ahead in fourth place. As things are progressing, record 20-time English champions United could see Leicester guarantee the title by winning at Old Trafford in three games time. Leicester are in unfamiliar territory but not showing it. There are no nerves, no sign of anxiety from Claudio Ranieri’s team. Some observers suggested the manager was crying when he entered the field after yesterday’s fifth successive win. “It’s fantastic when you see before the match a lot of old ladies with Leicester shirts outside the stadium,” Ranieri said later. “I said, ‘Unbelievable, they came from Leicester to support us.’ That is emotional; that is fantastic; that is football. “I want, through you, to say thank you for the support. It’s unbelievable. They are amazing. They are dreaming and we want to continue to dream. But to do this, we must be concentrated.” It’s looking bleak for Sunderland, who are four points from safety but with a game in hand over Norwich. There was little at stake in yesterday’s third game apart from Liverpool gaining confidence ahead of their Europa League quarter-final second leg against Borussia Dortmund, which is locked at 1-1. Liverpool dislodged Stoke from eighth place by beating the Anfield visitors 4-1. Alberto Moreno’s fine Liverpool opener was cancelled out by Bojan Krkic in the 22nd minute. But Daniel Sturridge restored Liverpool’s lead before half-time and substitute Divock Origi netted twice after the break.
Real Madrid are set to turn down loan offers for Liverpool target Mateo Kovacic – and will only sell him for £24m.The 22-year-old only arrived at the Bernabeu last summer but has struggled to establish himself as a regular first-team player.The midfielder made just eight La Liga starts last term and reports in Italy have suggested that a loan back to Serie A could be on the cards.Roma are very keen on luring the Croatia international back following three impressive seasons at Inter before his Real switch.And it has been reported that Kovacic could be open to the move with game time so short in Spain – which has come as a blow to Liverpool.The Reds have kept tabs on him for some time now and they have also been heavily linked with a summer offer.But now the Gazzetta dello Sport claim that Madrid do not want to loan Kovacic out next season and that they will only consider letting him go permanently if somebody is ready to cough up.They paid Inter €30m (£24m) to sign him this time last year and it is said that they will only sell him should they receive the same fee in return. Mateo Kovacic in action for Croatia 1