Wednesday 13 December 2017

Leicester owner jets in to provide show of support for under-fire Ranieri

Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri
Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri

Sam Wallace

Claudio Ranieri will be given the personal endorsement of Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha tonight, with the Thailand billionaire flying in for the Foxes' FA Cup replay against Derby County.

The unscheduled visit is being undertaken to provide a public signal of the owner's faith in the Italian who delivered the club their miracle Premier League title last May, having exceeded all expectations from when he was appointed a year earlier.

Tonight's match could prove to be another difficult night for Ranieri, with the expectation that he will rest many of his senior players.

The club took the unusual step of issuing a statement backing Ranieri yesterday in which they offered their "unwavering support" for him while acknowledging that "recent form needs to improve".

The club statement added: "The unprecedented success achieved in recent seasons has been based firmly on stability, togetherness and determination to overcome even the greatest challenges. The entire club is and will remain united behind the manager and behind its players, collectively and firmly focused on the challenges ahead."

Ranieri is under intense pressure from all fronts, with senior players increasingly unconvinced by his methods and being confused with tactical changes made by the manager, who went nose-to-nose with a member of his backroom staff recently in a row over studs.

The presence of the owner at the King Power Stadium is the club's way of assuring manager, staff, players and fans that they remain firmly behind his embattled manager, whose team are only one point clear of the relegation zone.

Vichai, known simply as 'The boss' at the King Power, is minded to back Ranieri, with whom he formed an instant bond when he appointed the Italian in the summer of 2015.

Having shown faith in Nigel Pearson in his successful relegation battle two years ago - he was later sacked for reasons unrelated to the team's performance - the Thai owner wants to stand by the manager who delivered the most unlikely league title in Premier League history.

In his press conference ahead of the replay against Derby, Ranieri joked that the reporters were once again the proverbial "sharks" - the description he used for the press corps during his last season at Chelsea in 2003-2004 when his imminent sacking was long regarded as a fait accompli.

"Now there are a lot of sharks and I am on the windsurfer!" he said.

"I accept this. This is our life. Last season was a fairy tale, this season is not a fairy tale. But it is OK. Now it is important to be positive without bad, bad words."

Ranieri insisted that his relationship with the players was unchanged.

"It is the same as last season. I speak the same s****y English and they understand me. It's important that they understand me. We try to do our best but this season everything is wrong but we are still fighting and that is my strength.

"That is important for me to see how they speak together, how they speak with me to try to improve some situations, what we are doing well and not doing well.

"We speak every time about what we need to improve and it's OK, with all my staff and everybody.

"When you see the training session, it's unbelievable how they are working and running!

"I say to my players, 'My door is always open'. Sometimes I come to them and sometimes they come to me. It's a fantastic relationship.

"They understand everything well. I think this [club statement] is for you, not for me, because I know the idea of the chairman of the club and everybody.

"Maybe the chairman wants to stop all the speculation. Every team goes down the speculation is always behind the corner. That's OK. I speak all the time to the chairman."

He added: "I understand football. You have to do your job and I have to do my job. When you win three matches you are God; when you lose three you are not."

Ranieri added that Riyad Mahrez, who has scored just three goals in the league this season, had approached him for advice.

Ranieri said: "Today he [Mahrez] said: 'Do I need to do something more?' "I said: 'No, you're doing well. If you switch on, you change the face for us.'?"

New signing Molla Wague won't be available having missed the registration date for the original fixture while Islam Slimani remains sidelined with injury.

The disgruntled Leonardo Ulloa continues his refusal to play for the club but Daniel Amartey has returned from the Africa Cup of Nations and is in contention to start. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Leicester City v Derby County, Live, BBC 1, 7.45

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