Sport Soccer

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Roberto Martinez: Inspirational Leicester can achieve anything this season

Published 17/12/2015 | 10:11

Roberto Martinez has praised Claudio Ranieri, pictured, for the belief in the Leicester team
Roberto Martinez has praised Claudio Ranieri, pictured, for the belief in the Leicester team

Leicester are capable of achieving anything this season, including winning the Premier League title, according to Everton boss Roberto Martinez.

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The Toffees are the latest team to try to derail the flying Foxes, with Claudio Ranieri's team the visitors to Goodison Park on Saturday.

Leicester top the table by two points after Monday's victory over Chelsea and are a full 12 points clear of Martinez's 10th-placed team.

It is not unusual for a less-fancied side to be among the big hitters at the start of a season but, with Leicester showing no signs of slipping off the pace heading into Christmas, this is developing into a very different story.

"Leicester deserve to be top of the league," Martinez said. "I think Claudio Ranieri deserves all the credit for developing the belief in that team.

"Of course they are (title contenders). I don't see why they shouldn't be. It's not because they are top of the league, it's because they've been so competitive in every game.

"I've seen a real change. The first two or three fixtures, they were testing themselves and seeing how they could compete. Now it's different.

"The last few games, there's an incredible belief. They go out knowing they're going to win the football game, and I think when you develop that momentum, it can be very powerful.

"Of course in a competition of 10 months you're relying on (a lack of) suspensions, injuries, you have to be a bit fortunate, and Leicester is no different, but, where they are now, the way they are playing and the momentum that they achieved, they are capable of achieving anything this season."

It has been a remarkable transformation for a team who were bottom of the table last Christmas and looked to be heading for relegation until a dramatic upturn in form at the end of the season.

Martinez will hope to hand Leicester just a second defeat of the season on Saturday but the Spaniard thinks the Foxes' rise is a fillip for football.

"They are refreshing for modern football because we all know that finances dictate a lot," he said.

"Normally, in any competition, at the end of the season, more or less the expected sides are always there. I think when you see teams like Leicester and the nature of this year's competition, I think it's inspirational and it's something you want every footballer to believe, that you can achieve something that probably you're not predicted to.

"It's the belief, the momentum, the way they play, it's very refreshing, so I'm sure every neutral football fan up and down the country will have a soft feeling towards what Leicester are achieving.

"I think this campaign is the most open we have had for many years and I think that's good for football in general."

Everton could well still be without midfielder James McCarthy for the game as he continues to recover from a hip problem, but defender John Stones has shown no ill effects from the knocks to his ankle and knee that he picked up before and during the draw against Norwich last weekend.

Martinez, who reiterated that he will not be selling any of his key players in January, said: " It's been really good news. In the last two days (Stones) has been able to do his normal work. He's in perfect condition for the weekend."

Midfielder Steven Pienaar, meanwhile, is closing in on his first appearance of the season after recovering from a hamstring problem.

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