Ranieri wants 'to speak with' Mahrez about penalty misses
Aston Villa 1 Leicester City 1
Published 18/01/2016 | 02:30
Claudio Ranieri will hold talks with Riyad Mahrez this week before deciding whether to retain him as Leicester City's designated penalty-taker.
Mahrez has been one of Leicester's undisputed stars in the club's captivating campaign, but he has now missed two successive spot-kicks to damage Ranieri's surprise title challenge.
After a poor penalty against Bournemouth this month, Mahrez's weak effort at Villa Park on Saturday dramatically shifted the momentum of the game and prevented Leicester from issuing another statement of intent.
Ranieri admitted that Mahrez was "very sad", the manager also suggesting that he was not being offered enough protection from referees.
The simple truth, though, is that the Algeria international has cost Leicester an extra four points.
"If I remember, this is the second or third mistake from Riyad. I want to speak with him," Ranieri said.
"Riyad was fantastic at the beginning and now a lot of people are around him, trying to take the legs, that's difficult. It's important the referees are very close to him.
"All the big players receive this kind of pressure, then for him it is a new challenge. I am very, very close to him and I want to help him. Riyad is our main player and he must continue to play in this way."
Jamie Vardy was a threat but has only scored one goal in the last eight games and is clearly struggling after a minor groin operation.
Leicester did make an electrifying start and they took the lead after Shinji Okazaki's close-range finish, before Mahrez wasted the chance to effectively kill off the contest from 12 yards, his penalty easily saved by the Villa goalkeeper Mark Bunn.
It breathed new life into Villa and after an improved second-half performance there was an inevitability about the equaliser, eventually coming 15 minutes from time via substitute Rudy Gestede.
After the victory against Crystal Palace last Tuesday, this result offered Villa supporters another sliver of hope in the club's mission to avoid relegation.
They remain nine points adrift of safety, ahead of an awkward trip to West Bromwich Albion this weekend, but there has been tangible progress.
Remi Garde will attempt to conclude deals for Mathieu Debuchy and Bordeaux's Labine Sane this week in his attempt to pull off mission impossible.