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Match Preview: Leicester defense to be tested against West Ham

The magic number of wins needed to clinch the Premier League title is down to three for Leicester City, as every next game becomes their biggest fixture of the season.

Michael Regan/Getty Images

Location: King Power Stadium, Leicestershire, England

Kick-off time: 13:30 PM GMT, 08:30 AM Eastern, 05:30 AM Pacific

SB Nation Opposition Blog: N/A

Available TV: Sky Sports (UK), NBCSN (US), Sportsnet (Canada)

Available streaming: NBC Sports Live Extra

On the back of five wins and five clean sheets in a row, Leicester looks to keep its strong defensive record intact against a dangerous West Ham United side at the King Power Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Foxes stretched their shutout streak to 490 minutes last weekend in a Jamie Vardy-driven 2-0 win away to Sunderland and currently sit seven points clear of second place Tottenham atop the Premier League standings.

It's a title run that has its manager in tears after the final whistle at Sunderland, and with every game the stakes increase for Claudio Ranieri's side with five games remaining to earn three victories and a first-ever Premier League title for the midlands side.

"We have to fight, we have achieved nothing yet," said Ranieri on Friday in his pre-match press conference.

"Football is very strange. If you were not here in Leicester but maybe at Chelsea or United, with seven points more than others, you would say 'it is finished'.

"You don't think this at the moment. Why? Because we are Leicester. We have to fight and be very strong.

"We've made a good story but, to make something you will remember in 30 or 40 years, we have to win."

The Hammers hold one of the attacks most capable of ending Leicester's defensive run of form and are unbeaten in their past seven league games, scoring 14 goals during that time. A midweek loss in the FA Cup Quarterfinals against Manchester United shortens the recovery time for the East London side, who will place its own ambitions of a spot in Europe side-to-side with Leicester's title bid.

Leicester defenders Wes Morgan and Robert Huth have the task of limiting striker Andy Carroll's aerial influence in the box on crosses and corners, where his ability to have an impact on the game is at its highest. Carroll had a hat-trick in his last Premier League outing against Arsenal, putting two headers past Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina to help the club erase a 2-0 deficit. A full 180 minutes in two games for Carroll over the past week could begin to show against Leicester, but the back line of Fuchs, Morgan, Huth and Simpson needs to stay firm for the full 90 minutes to help give the Foxes their best shot at the three points.

Oh, and they also have this player named Dimitri Payet - a PFA Player of the Year nominee alongside Leicester's Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante. The French international and has made his mark this season as one of the league's biggest threats off free kicks, including a gem against Crystal Palace two weeks ago. The Foxes match him in the midfield with a French international of their own in Kante, whose been Europe's best defensive midfielder this season with 134 interceptions and 146 tackles. Kante and the Leicester back line will need to do the work in front of goal to open up space for Mahrez, Drinkwater and Albrighton in the midfield and  Vardy and Okazaki up front for the Foxes.

Ranieri needs to resist the urge to tinker his side with Mahrez being relatively unnoticeable in the club's past two games. Capable alternatives wait on the sidelines in Demarai Gray and Andy King, but the Algerian international has been second to none this season and only needs a small pocket of space to exert his influence over the game. If West Ham decides to commit two or three players towards Mahrez, it opens up space for the rest of Leicester to press forward and push for a goal. He's a player whose presence on the pitch can be a game-changer in itself.

The Foxes once again can move 10 points clear of Tottenham at the top of the Premier League table ahead of Spurs' clash with Stoke at the Britannia Stadium on Monday night. Three points are vital for both title chasers as each makes their bid to close or widen the gap between one another.

A win this weekend leaves Leicester six points away from Premier League history with four games to play while Spurs fight to keep the pressure on the Foxes and their title dreams alive.

Score Prediction: Leicester 2, West Ham United 1 (Mahrez x2)