Football

Ranieri calm and content

Wily Italian boss says the pressure is all on England's big guns

Claudio Ranieri, manager of shock English Premier League champions Leicester, believes sides like Chelsea and Liverpool, who failed to even make the Champions League, will be prepared to kill all opposition in the forthcoming season.

The Italian added the pressure was not on him, but his rivals like old foe Jose Mourinho at Manchester United and Antonio Conte at one of his former clubs Chelsea.

Both of them, like Manchester City's Pep Guardiola, have taken on new challenges, although Mourinho, Conte and Juergen Klopp at Liverpool don't have Champions League campaigns to be concerned about.

"Everything's different now. You imagine the big teams who didn't win last season, who didn't make the Champions League, they are going crazy now," Ranieri told The Sun.

"They want to kill now - not just us but all the other teams."

The 64-year-old Ranieri, who suggested his side should be 6,000/1 to defend their crown as opposed to the 5,000/1 they were for last season's title, said the managerial talent, all of it foreign, coming into the Premier League was fantastic, but only one could emerge a winner.

"Antonio Conte is fantastic, Jose (Mourinho), everybody knows Jose," said Ranieri, who once was sneeringly dismissed by Mourinho as having won only one small trophy.

"Pep Guardiola is an amazing person and a good manager. I'm laughing because at the end of the season only one will win and the pressure is not on me, it's on them!"

The Italian, who succeeded in keeping striker Jamie Vardy but lost French midfield enforcer N'Golo Kante at the weekend to Chelsea, admitted the odds were loaded in favour of one of the big beasts of the EPL regaining the title given the disparity in transfer funds.

He has been pretty busy in the transfer market, beating the club record outlay twice in a week to secure former France Under-21 midfielder Nampalys Mendy for £13 million ($23m), and Nigerian forward Ahmed Musa for £16.6m.

"The big clubs are spending a lot of money and, for this reason, they must win," he said.

"Leicester City? People are just curious.

"What will happen with Leicester next season? Will it be a repeat? I say to them we can repeat the level of performance, but not to win. To win again is a dream."

FOXES STILL HUNGRY

Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who played every game of Leicester's title-winning campaign, said the team remained equally hungry this season.

"I can assure you the hunger is 100 per cent still there. We have to go again, do exactly the same again and see where it takes us.

"We have never said 'this is what we are aiming for'," Schmeichel told the BBC.

"We go out, we work hard for one another and do our best. If someone is not pulling their weight - which barely ever happens - then they will be told. Part of being a really good squad is the togetherness and being able to trust one another."

Leicester begin their title defence at Hull on Aug 13. - Wire Services.

eplClaudio Ranierimanagerenglish premier leagueLEICESTERchelsealiverpoolJose MourinhoManchester UnitedAntonio Contemanchester citypep guardiolajuergen klopp