'The others must be nervous, they spent a lot of money'- Ranieri turns up heat on title rivals
Published 06/03/2016 | 13:44
Claudio Ranieri has raised the stakes in the battle for the Barclays Premier League title by claiming Leicester's big-spending rivals will now feel the pressure in this most unpredictable of seasons.
Leicester are five points clear of Tottenham and eight ahead of Arsenal after securing a 1-0 victory at Watford following Riyad Mahrez's wonder strike.
While Spurs are bidding for their first league title in more than half a century, Arsenal's expensively-assembled squad already appear to be wilting under the expectancy of ending their 12-year championship drought. Manchester City, who signed Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne for nearly £100million last summer, are 10 points behind.
"We are not nervous, our job is done and our job was to save the team," said Ranieri, whose Leicester side narrowly avoided relegation last term. "This is an amazing season for us and everything we achieve is something more. The others must be nervous, the others spend a lot of money to win the title. We have to build slowly, slowly.
"This year is a crazy season for us, for everybody and we are happy and we have to enjoy. We know very well this is a strange chance that we have but we want to fight and then nobody can say 'we were nervous'. No. We are focussed and everything could happen."
Leicester's display at Vicarage Road was befitting of a side who are now the favourites to complete one of British sport's great fairytales. Ranieri's side never looked in danger of conceding against Watford, who have now drawn a blank in five of their last six league outings, while Mahrez, the £400,000 signing from French side Le Havre, provided the spark with his moment of magic in the second half.
Leicester will now have more than a week to prepare for the visit of struggling Newcastle at the King Power Stadium next Monday.
"The key of the season was from the beginning when there was a good link, and a good feeling between me and the players, the fans, the staff and the owners," said Ranieri who was appointed in the summer after Nigel Pearson's departure.
"The target was to save the team, and it is important that you are reminded what our target was. When we got to 39 points at the end of the first part of the season I said 'I want to improve. Now I want to do 40'.
"When I arrive at 79, maybe I want to arrive at 80, 81. I don't know? But now our focus is on Newcastle."
For Watford, they remain three points shy of reaching the magical 40-point mark which will all but secure their top-flight status.
"In terms of the team and how they should play as one team I think yes," said manager Quique Sanchez Flores when asked if Leicester were the best side Watford had faced this season.
"I understand that they got to their target two months ago and now they feel complete freedom to be positive and to go for everything. It is amazing work from Claudio which we need to recognise. Everyone now knows how Leicester play but it is difficult to stop them."