06 Mar Hard work the key for Ranieri
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri insists he is not dreaming about winning the Barclays Premier League despite moving five points clear in the title race with a 1-0 victory at Watford.
A brilliant goal from Riyad Mahrez after 56 minutes has put clear breathing space between Ranieri’s side and second-placed Tottenham with only nine matches of this fascinating season remaining.
But Ranieri, whose side will host struggling Newcastle in their next league fixture, played down Leicester’s chances of completing one of British sport’s greatest fairytales.
“I don’t dream, I continue to work hard,” said Ranieri despite the visiting support at Vicarage Road singing “we’re going to win the league” in the closing moments of Saturday’s tea-time clash.
“The fans dream and we work which is a good combination. Did you see today? Every match in the Premier League is a battle, not (just) for us but everybody, and five points is nothing.
“We want to continue to fight match-after-match, step-by-step, and now our mind is on Newcastle which is another tough match at home.”
Leicester headed into Saturday’s game at Watford knowing that a win would move them five points clear of their nearest challengers after Tottenham and Arsenal played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane.
Spurs looked set to move level on points with the Foxes before Alexis Sanchez scored an unlikely equaliser for Arsenal after they were reduced to 10 men.
But Ranieri claimed neither he, nor his side, knew the result of the North London derby ahead of their match at Vicarage Road.
“I didn’t know,” said Ranieri when asked for his reaction to the draw at White Hart Lane. “No. Believe me. I was focussed on Watford and I did not know the result.”
When the score was pointed out to the Italian during his post-match press conference, he replied with a smile: “It was 2-2? Oh good. Thank you.”
Mahrez, a £400,000 signing from French second division side Le Havre, scored his 15th league goal with a strike befitting of his incredible season.
“The goal was amazing,” Ranieri, who substituted the Algerian with 10 minutes remaining, said. “The ball was there, the shot at goal was good quality, but we know very well about Mahrez.
“There was no injury, just a little cramp. He wanted to continue but his job was done and I preferred to change him.”
For Watford, who remain 12th in the table, they have now failed to score in seven of their last nine matches.
“Leicester look like a very good team,” said manager Quique Sanchez Flores. “It is no different to what we were expecting. They played really well, very intense in the middle, defending well and getting back all the time,
“We respected them before the match and we carry on respecting them now.”