Friday 24 November 2017

Ranieri wants foxes fans to believe

But Italian knows what's in store for challengers

Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri Photo: PA
Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri Photo: PA
Jamie Vardy has been sensational this season for the Foxes Photo: Reuters

Victory against Manchester City would confirm Leicester as serious Premier League title contenders, but Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri will not be making such bold statements whatever the result today.

Leicester are the story of the campaign. Under Ranieri they have transformed from relegation candidates into league leaders, with Jamie Vardy topping the scoring charts. Barring a dramatic slump in results, certainties for European football next season - probably in the Champions League.

A win this weekend over their nearest rivals would take the Foxes six points clear of City, but Ranieri remains grounded, with another difficult trip to Arsenal on the agenda after the Etihad.

"Even if we win, and we try to win, then we can lose with Arsenal," Ranieri said.

"It is difficult to say this (that Leicester can win the title). We want our fans to dream but we know it's a tough match and from now there will only be tough matches.

"We must continue in this way. I tell my players we make 39 points in the first half (of the season) so I want 40 points from the second half - one more.


"We have to take two points every match between now and the end of the season to arrive at 79 points. I don't know if it is good enough to win (the league), but I want to improve.

"If we don't improve, we still make a fantastic season but we slow down.

"We believe in the next match. We believe we are working well. We believe sooner or later we lose but nothing must happen."

Ranieri has been asked on countless occasions over the past few months whether he believes Leicester can win the Premier League and he has played it down every time.

Asked if he had told his players that he believes they can lift the title, the affable Italian said: "You want to know if I told something to my players?! Ha ha ha. This is a secret.

"It's a battle now - Manchester City and then Arsenal. We have to make sure we just keep working and running and running.

"I hope we don't feel the pressure because it's the first time we have been here."

Ranieri will assess the fitness of recent signing Daniel Amartey before deciding if he will be involved for the first time in the top-of-the-table clash.

The Ghana international joined Leicester on January 23 but has yet to make the squad, having last played a competitive game for former club FC Copenhagen at the start of December because of the winter break.

Only Matty James (knee) and Jeff Schlupp (hamstring) will definitely be absent for the trip to Manchester.

City manager Manuel Pellegrini has dismissed suggestions that Pep Guardiola was manoeuvred into the club behind his back. Pellegrini said he was not kept in the dark as the Bayern Munich boss was ushered into the City hotseat.

Guardiola, who won back-to-back German league titles with Bayern and is on course for a third after joining in 2013, agreed a three-year contract with City this week and will begin work ahead of next season.

"It's important for everyone to know that I knew what was happening and that no one was doing anything behind my back," Pellegrini said.

"It's important to talk about this season and not the next one."

A victory for City today would see them draw level on 50 points with Ranieri's side, but ahead of them on goal difference with 13 matches of the campaign then remaining. Defeat, however, would not spell the end of City's hopes of winning a third title in the last five seasons, Pellegrini said.

"It's not the biggest game of the season so far -- we can win or lose and the Premier League will not end here," added the Chilean, whose side are still in all four competitions they entered.

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