Saturday 26 May 2018

Defiant Ranieri tells Pochettino he'll have to wait to get his hands on title

Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri . Photo: Mike Egerton/PA
Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri . Photo: Mike Egerton/PA

Stuart James

Claudio Ranieri has told Mauricio Pochettino to wait for another year to win the Premier League title. The Italian was speaking before today's crucial home game against Swansea City, when his Leicester side can open up an eight-point lead over Tottenham and move a step closer to the first top-flight title of Ranieri's career.

Ranieri has finished second on four occasions in three different countries since becoming a manager, and with that track record in mind the 64-year-old knows the sort of comments that will be levelled at him if Pochettino's Spurs side overhaul Leicester in the final four matches of the season.

"Every time I was behind," Ranieri said. "I know there are people out there who, if I don't win the title [with Leicester], will say: 'Ah, Ranieri, he always comes second.' Yes, but look at my career. Look at it. I was second at Chelsea. But we had started to build a team during the previous year. I continued to buy people during the first Premier League matches. We came second.

"At Roma, I was second. I arrived after two matches. We had zero points. We finished with 80 points. Inter had 82. I lost but what more could I do? I arrived at Juventus the first year after [promotion from] Serie B. We were third, then second. What more could I do? I had four or five champions but others were young players. At Monaco we won the second division. Then we finish behind Paris Saint-Germain, second by eight points. Now I try to win this [Premier League title]."

Tottenham, who host West Bromwich Albion tomorrow, turned up the pressure with a resounding 4-0 victory at Stoke City 24 hours after Leicester had been held to a 2-2 draw by West Ham United.

With Leicester trying to keep a low profile, Ranieri was asked whether he had a message for Pochettino. "Mauricio, you can wait. Wait for one more year," he said, smiling, before insisting that he was not feeling the heat any more than usual. "The pressure is always at the top. They have been behind all year. I'm not bothered. I would love to stay five points ahead."

With Jamie Vardy suspended for the visit of Swansea, Leicester will be without their leading scorer and could do with Riyad Mahrez recapturing his best form. Mahrez has 16 Premier League goals and 11 assists to his name this season but the Algerian, who has been shortlisted for the PFA player of the year award, has been quiet in recent weeks.

"I'm very happy with him," Ranieri said. "If you see what Riyad did, it's fantastic. Every time he touches the ball, it's a great ball. He is fouled a lot because everybody knows him and they want to stop him, so it's harder for him. He's very clever and if you remember who makes the right pass to N'Golo Kante to go on the counter attack last week [for Vardy's opening goal], it was Riyad. Only he has the key to open the defensive line. It's fantastic. Maybe he doesn't look fantastic now but look and you will see what he does with the ball."Observer

Leicester City v Swansea City

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