Sunday 26 January 2020

'I am only focussed on the next match'- Foxes' boss Ranieri staying grounded amid title hysteria

Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri
Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri

Damian Spellman

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri is refusing to look any further ahead than the next match despite seeing his side edge closer to the Barclays Premier League title.

The Foxes maintained their stranglehold on top spot with a 2-0 victory at Sunderland on Sunday, but Ranieri, as he has done all season, was keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

Asked if it was difficult to hear people saying the title is already theirs, the Italian said: "No, no, no. They can continue to say it. No, no, no, no.

"But it's important our focus, our concentration is on the next match. I said this to the players: 'Well done, we won today, but now we have two matches. The first against West Ham is a very, very difficult match because West Ham are a fantastic team with good players and everything right; and after, there is Swansea, another difficult match. Now we are happy, but from tomorrow, be focussed'.

"Every time I speak to them, it is 'Next match, next match'. I don't want to see more than the next match."

Ranieri appeared to shed a tear on the pitch after watching his team bank three more points courtesy of Jamie Vardy's second-half double, and admitted he had been moved by what he saw as the team coach arrived on Wearside.

He said: "It's fantastic when you see before the match a lot of old ladies with Leicester shirts outside the stadium. I said 'Unbelievable, they came from Leicester to support us'. That is emotional, that is fantastic, that is football.

"I want through you to say thank you for the support. It's unbelievable. They are amazing. They are dreaming and we want to continue to dream. But to do this, we must be concentrated."

Leicester got their noses in front when Vardy ran on to Danny Drinkwater's 66th-minute pass to beat goalkeeper Vito Mannone before out-muscling Patrick van Aanholt off the ball to double the lead in stoppage time.

Frustrated Black Cats boss Sam Allardyce paid tribute to the way the Foxes have gone about their task this season.

He said: "Leicester are unique in the fact that they don't have to be pretty, they don't have to play a certain way. The way that they're playing is so good, their fans love it, whereas fans at bigger clubs might moan about them playing 'not the right type of football'.

"It's terrific for them. Each and every player is playing better and more consistently than they have ever done in their life, that's the beauty of it. But it's not just two or three or four, it's all of them, they don't seem to put a foot wrong, so good luck to them."

By contrast, Sunderland face an ever more desperate scrap for survival with next Saturday's trip to Norwich looking increasingly pivotal.

Asked how he viewed the situation, Allardyce said: "Don't lose at Norwich, don't lose - they are seven points clear if we lose with five games to go. It still wouldn't be mathematically certain, but it starts heaping too much pressure on.

"We'll try to win, but make sure you don't lose because don't forget, we have still got a game in hand."

The home side might have emerged with something to show for their efforts had substitute Jack Rodwell not blazed over eight minutes from time, but once again, they failed to make the most of their opportunities.

Allardyce said: "The turning point was Jack Rodwell's miss, which is becoming one of our problems now, converting chances and here we are, lost the game, tried our very best playing against the top of the league.

"We weren't quite good enough and they punished us when they waited and pounced on the opportunity brilliantly."

PA Media

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