Sunday 18 March 2018

Claudio Ranieri: Leicester teamwork allows Riyad Mahrez to shine

Riyad Mahrez has been in fine form this campaign
Riyad Mahrez has been in fine form this campaign

Riyad Mahrez has stolen the headlines so far this season but Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri insists his side are not a one-man team.

Mahrez has been key to the Foxes unbeaten start to the campaign which sees them sit second in the Barclays Premier League table ahead of Saturday's trip to Stoke.

The Algeria international midfielder is the joint-leading scorer in the division with four goals, along with Swansea striker Bafetimbi Gomis and Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson, and also has a handful of assists to his name this season.

Mahrez's attacking attributes are there for all to see but Ranieri believes how he fits into the team ethos as a whole is regularly overlooked.

"Riyad is playing well, everything he touches is gold but behind him there are so many players who are working hard, trying to do their best for the team," said Ranieri.

"Riyad is part of that but because he does something that is 'wow', it is missed sometimes. It is important for us and for Riyad because he is a team player.

"He has good quality but suffers also when he comes back to help his full-back.

"That is important for the team and it is important for me."

Mahrez has formed part of a formidable attacking unit this season at Leicester which, due to the pace they possess, Ranieri has likened to the Royal Air Force.

Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, Marc Albrighton, Jeffrey Schlupp and recent addition Nathan Dyer form a fearsome frontline - arguably the fastest in the Premier League - and Ranieri had praise for his flying Foxes.

"I love watching them. My team is like the RAF... beep, beep, beep, I love it," said the Italian.

Meanwhile, Mahrez's agent insists his client is not interested in the recent rumours linking him with clubs such as Arsenal and Barcelona.

Kamel Bengougam, the 24-year-old's representative, is adamant that Mahrez remains fully focused on maintaining his excellent form at Leicester.

He told ESPN: " Riyad is very happy at Leicester and he just signed a new contract at the club last month.

"Riyad is not thinking about the rumours and is focused on his season with Leicester and wants to continue his fine form."

Mahrez has proved to be a bargain for Leicester who, under previous manager Nigel Pearson, paid French club Le Havre just £400,000 in January 2014.

He is certain to start against Stoke while Dyer may also be handed his full debut after marking his first appearance for the Foxes with the winning goal against Aston Villa last weekend.

N'golo Kante and Leonardo Ulloa also impressed as substitutes as Ranieri's men overturned a two-goal deficit to beat Villa 3-2 and they will be pushing for starting places at the Britannia Stadium.

Press Association

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