Football

Ranieri amused by title talk

It is January. If it was May, maybe. It is only January — it is not May.

— Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri (right) on winning the Premier League title

I think they deserve to finish in the place that they are.

— Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino (left) on Leicester’s form

 

Claudio Ranieri admits he still laughs at suggestions his Leicester side can win the Premier League this season.

The Foxes moved level on points with leaders Arsenal after Robert Huth's late header saw them leave Tottenham with a 1-0 win yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Those three points, coupled with Liverpool's late leveller against the Gunners in a 3-3 draw at Anfield, leaves the top two locked together on 43 points.

Leicester have continued to defy the odds as a season set to be another battle against the drop has morphed into one which leaves them as genuine title contenders.

But Ranieri, who saw Huth head home Christian Fuchs' 82nd-minute corner to wrap up the win at Tottenham four days after they drew 2-2 at White Hart Lane in the FA Cup, insists he still finds it amusing when people say his team can lift the title.

When asked how he responds to questions about winning the league, the Italian replied: "I laugh! It is January. If it was May, maybe. It is only January - it is not May.

"It is okay, it is good, we will continue to work hard and remain on the ground. It is a crazy, crazy, crazy league this year."

Ranieri made nine changes from the team that were only a minute away from knocking Spurs out of the FA Cup last Sunday - only for Harry Kane to draw the hosts level with a late penalty.

Riyad Mahrez and fit-again Jamie Vardy returned but it was Huth's goal - his first of the season - and an inspired performance from goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel which were the backbone of a 12th league win of the campaign.

"Vardy and Mahrez, for us, are very important and, when you score without them, you say 'good'," added Ranieri.

"We drew the match in the cup with Marcin Wasilewski and Shinji Okazaki (scoring) and then tonight with Robert Huth - it is good.

"We created a lot of chances and not only with Mahrez or Vardy, but a lot of players can make goals and that is important for the team.

"We scored a goal and Kasper made a fantastic save - third match in a row, clean sheet, I'm very, very glad."

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino believes that his side's loss proves that Ranieri's men deserve to finish in the top four.

"I think they deserve it," said Pochettino, when asked if he thought Ranieri's side could maintain their form.

"Full credit to them. I'm very disappointed, but I think they deserve to finish in the place that they are.

"Leicester play their way, but they deserve full credit for the way that they believe on the pitch. It's unbelievable."

Pochettino thinks that the inexperience of his own squad is hindering their consistency in key matches, with Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane and Erik Lamela all under 24 years of age.

"I think it's difficult to explain to supporters that they should take this defeat in a positive way," added Pochettino, after his team's five-match unbeaten league run came to an end, but they remain fourth, a point clear of West Ham.

"We need to learn a lot. We are very young. When we get positive results, I try to explain that we are very young and need to learn."

- Wire Services.

eplLEICESTERtottenham hotspurClaudio Ranierimauricio pochettino