Monday 5 December 2016

We are England's second favourite team - Ranieri

John Percy

Published 23/12/2015 | 02:30

Ranieri has reiterated that little surgery, if any, is needed on his squad in the January transfer window but added that fringe players would be allowed to leave. AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS
Ranieri has reiterated that little surgery, if any, is needed on his squad in the January transfer window but added that fringe players would be allowed to leave. AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS

Leicester are guaranteed to be the Christmas No 1, a year after lying bottom of the league, and will face Liverpool on St Stephen's Day as the success story of the season so far.

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Ranieri's side have suffered only one league defeat all season, to Arsenal, and successive victories over Chelsea and Everton have only enhanced the feel-good factor in the squad.

The Italian is still preaching caution ahead of a tough festive programme but said that Leicester would become the country's second favourite team if they remain in contention next month.

"This is good for English football. I think if we go through this fantastic moment - because now we have Liverpool, (Manchester) City and then Bournemouth, who are in great form, then Tottenham (in the FA Cup) - maybe if we still are top not only will Leicester fans be - behind us, but a lot of English fans as well, because Leicester I think are a likeable team," he said.

"Maybe the people will say: 'OK, if my team don't win, I'm very happy if Leicester win'. And this is a good thing.

"The other thing is big teams are thinking about other things, because it's not normal that the big teams aren't at the top. If there is one year that's strange ... OK. The pressure is on the big teams.

"Leicester had the pressure last season in this period, bad stress. Now, no.

"Now they must enjoy. They must play free, without pressure. It's stupid if we have pressure. Why? Enjoy. All the world are speaking about you. Play - you can win or lose. But if we lose that is normal. We must continue to play and work hard."

Arsenal's win over Manchester City on Monday night cut Leicester's lead to just two points and the general feeling remains that their challenge will run out of steam. But the 64-year-old is happy to be written off, claiming that Arsenal are the team to beat.

"I agree with the people who say our run will end, when they say Arsenal or Manchester City is the favourite.

"For me, Arsenal is the favourite because they have fantastic players," he said.

"Our team is a young team, it's the first time we're top of the league, we aren't used to staying there. For this reason it's important for me they don't think about (it). It's like a climber. If you look below: 'Ah, my God!'?"

Ranieri has reiterated that little surgery, if any, is needed on his squad in the January transfer window but added that fringe players would be allowed to leave.

One of those is Switzerland captain Gokhan Inler, a £3.5million signing this summer, who is preparing for Euro 2016 but has started only two league games.

Andrej Kramaric, a striker signed for £7.5m from Rijeka, and defender Yohan Benalouane could also ago.

Ranieri said: "I'd like to maintain everyone but I understand if somebody wants to go. I hope to replace them but we are not looking to do much. Have I told the board that? I'm the boss." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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