Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri savouring changing times in the Premier League
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri thinks the gap between the Barclays Premier League elite and the rest of the division is narrowing.
In a season that has been the most unpredictable and open campaign since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, the Foxes are the perfect case in point.
This time last year, under Nigel Pearson, Leicester seemed destined for relegation but 12 months on they find themselves level on points with top-of-the-table Arsenal and it would take a shocking collapse for the Foxes not to be competing in Europe again - after a 16-year absence - next season.
Time and time again Ranieri's team have defied the odds, but they are not the only ones. Stand-out results this season, to name but a few, have seen Bournemouth bag back-to-back wins last month against Manchester United and Chelsea, while Norwich also won at Old Trafford in December.
Crystal Palace have won at Chelsea and Liverpool, while West Ham have victories over Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea to their name.
Stoke, Leicester's opponents at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, can point to reigning champions Chelsea and both Manchester clubs on their list of scalps.
Asked if the gap was getting smaller, Ranieri said: ''Yes. The table says there is no gap. However, everybody who knows football knows there is a big gap between Leicester and the other teams.
''This league is crazy. Tottenham, Stoke, Crystal Palace and West Ham - and I don't mention the big clubs. All these are fighting to achieve the European places. And Stoke is another tough match.
''It is changing. Last season it began with Chelsea and ended with Chelsea. Before that it began with Manchester City and ended with Manchester City.
''This season we are fighting. It is changing not only for us but for all teams.
''I am very pleased with my players because against teams like Tottenham I didn't see it (the gap). The statistics say there's no gap between Tottenham, who started 10-15 years ago to build a very good solid building, and Leicester who started this season.''
Ranieri clearly wants Leicester to make the most of their unlikely title challenge this season, for he fears it could prove to be a one-off.
He said: ''What we are doing is fantastic. This is something special and we want to fight for something special. Maybe I'm sure next season we are better but maybe we don't fight for the top four.''
Following the FA Cup exit to Tottenham, against whom Leicester fielded a starting line-up containing several fringe players, Ranieri will bring back his key men as Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Ngolo Kante, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy return to face Stoke.
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