17 Oct We can get back to winning ways
Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri has defended his misfiring Foxes and urged the club’s critics to lay off.
The reigning Premier League champions have just eight points from the first eight games having lost four matches this season – one more than last term’s title-winning campaign.
Former England striker Alan Shearer also questioned Jamie Vardy’s workrate in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Chelsea, which left Leicester 11 points behind leaders Manchester City.
They host FC Copenhagen in the Champions League on Tuesday, with a 100 per cent record from two games in Group G and yet to concede a goal.
But the Foxes are only two points above the Premier League relegation zone and Ranieri is confident his players can turn their form around.
He said: “Sometimes you can play well and sometimes not so well. Like at Manchester United, the first half at Chelsea was no good but in the second half we played very well. I am very confident with my team.
“They fight and last season we were more compact but now everyone knows about us. Now we are in the balance, in the middle, and not as good as last season but it’s normal for a team like Leicester.
“We want to improve but it’s normal when we start the season to have something to work on because new players have come and everything is new. Maybe we want to do something more but we are Leicester, we’re a good team and we have to show our qualities.
“I think we can fight in every match. Now our training sessions are Premier League and Champions League. We are getting better and have to be solid and strong and don’t make any pressure about relegation.”
Premier League record scorer Shearer accused Vardy on Monday of “sulking” and a “lack of effort” in the loss at Stamford Bridge, but Ranieri insisted he gave his striker, who has not scored for club and country in eight games, instructions to stay with Chelsea defender David Luiz.
He said: “I think ex-players can say everything. Shearer is a fantastic scorer but some months you can score, some months you can’t.
“If he’s speaking about Chelsea I told Jamie to stay with David Luiz. I wanted to give a point of reference to my players, counter attack and leave him with David Luiz – not his fault, it’s mine maybe.
“It’s important he stays calm, keeps his strength and he will score a goal.”
Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani will return after starting on the bench at Chelsea and Ranieri admitted Leicester’s back-to-back games against Copenhagen will define their Champions League future, with the reverse fixture in Denmark on November 2.
“At this moment it’s a priority because in the Premier League we must be safe at the end of the year, the Champions League is now,” he said.
“The next two are very important for us and will tell us what we can do in the Champions League.”
Leicester have conceded fewer goals this campaign, 14, than this time last season, 15, when Ranieri offered to buy the team pizza once they kept a clean sheet.
But the players still held a meeting following their heavy defeat at Stamford Bridge with goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who was born in Copenhagen, insisting they have solved any issues.
“We’ve had a chat, things have been said and resolved and we move on,” said the Denmark international goalkeeper.
“It’s a long season and we’ve had some bad performances away from home, starting badly and haven’t been able to recover. We’re confident we can turn this around.
“You look at how we have started over the last few seasons, we haven’t been the quickest of starters. It’s not a time to worry or panic, we come good in the middle of the season and we become really good towards the end.
“We’re looking to keep going and the expectation is something that you lot (the media) like to write about.”
Meanwhile, Namplays Mendy has had a minor operation as he recovers from an ankle injury which has sidelined him since August.
Ranieri said: “He was unlucky, today he has had surgery just to clean a little fragment of the bone. (He will be out for) four weeks, five weeks, I don’t know. He’s an unlucky man.”