Sunday 26 January 2020

Ranieri abandons caution as he challenges Leicester players to push for the title

Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has admitted that his team could win the Premier League. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has admitted that his team could win the Premier League. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

John Percy

Claudio Ranieri has finally admitted Leicester City can win the Premier League title - four games before the end of their remarkable season.

The Italian was in defiant mood as he prepared for tomorrow's crucial game against Swansea City. Leicester have already secured a place in next season's Champions League and hold a commanding five-point lead over second-placed Tottenham, with the opportunity to extend that gap to eight points with a victory tomorrow.

Spurs cranked up the pressure with a resounding 4-0 win at Stoke City and their manager, Mauricio Pochettino, has resorted to mind games by insisting the suspension of Jamie Vardy will have a "big impact" on the leaders.

Ranieri abandoned his usual caution by challenging his players to finish the season with a flourish and clinch Leicester's first top-flight title.

"We are in the Champions League and that is a great achievement - and now we go straight away to try and win the title. Only this remains," he said.

"Mauricio, keep calm! I talked with my players, 'Come on, now is the right moment to push'. I believe, always I believe. I am a positive man. If Spurs go above us, congratulations, but I prefer my position to them.

"For me it is not important what they do, it is only important what we do. Now is the last part of the race and the final is there. If it happens - fireworks."

Ranieri faces a dilemma, however, as he will be without leading scorer Vardy after the England striker was sent off against West Ham on Sunday.

Vardy is also battling to prevent an additional one-match ban but Ranieri reckons his team can cope. "Without our top scorer it's not easy, but hopefully on Sunday everybody can give something more to win."

Meanwhile, Divock Origi is the latest Liverpool player fighting to play again this season after Jurgen Klopp confirmed a "serious" injury, but Danny Ings is close to a return to full training after his recovery from cruciate knee surgery.

Ings might join the first team squad at Melwood within a fortnight as he continues his rehabilitation, while Christian Benteke could return to training within days. Klopp is also hopeful Emre Can is making swift progress after his ankle problem. The Liverpool manager says he has not given up hope of Origi featuring over the next month, but the chances look slim of him recovering so quickly from the injury sustained in the Merseyside derby.

"The season is not over without taking a risk with the player," he said. "We just have to work with him and see what happens. It is the same with Emre Can."

Klopp will make changes for the visit of Newcastle, with next week's trip to Villarreal for the Europa League semi-final in mind. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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