A win over Chelsea will soothe Ranieri's pain from his acrimonious 2004 sacking
LEICESTER v CHELSEA
(Tuesday, 4am, Singtel TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
Jose Mourinho can't say for sure if his job is safe.
When the Chelsea manager looks across the dugout at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday morning (Singapore time), he may find a sympathetic face.
Claudio Ranieri was English football's original dead man walking.
He was the first to experience the financial might of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, and also the first to feel his wrath.
In charge of the Blues from 2000 to 2004, Ranieri spent his final months, during which he led them to the Champions League semi-finals and a second-placed finish in the English Premier League, waiting for the boot.
When the guillotine finally fell on his head, no one looked surprised.
The man who replaced him was none other than a young Mourinho.
The tables have turned.
The 64-year-old Ranieri will be leading out of the players' tunnel one of the most unfashionable Premiership leaders the league will ever see.
Leicester City aren't used to dining at the top table.
Success usually meant prolonging their stay in England's top tier by a season.
They spent the whole of last term fighting off relegation.
Then Ranieri arrived this July with a magic wand.
The transformation has been nothing short of astounding.
Even more remarkably, the Italian had steered Leicester to the top with a brand of attacking football so scintillating that he has won over pretty much every neutral fan.
The "uninspired choice", as former England and Leicester striker Gary Lineker described the appointment in July, has unearthed gems in his midst.
Striker Jamie Vardy set a new record by becoming the first player to score in 11 consecutive Premier League games, and now has 14 league goals under his belt.
Riyad Mahrez's hat-trick in their 3-0 away win over Swansea a week ago took the Algerian winger's league tally to 10 goals, and he has also chipped in with six assists.
The Foxes' sparkling form has seen Ranieri and Vardy pick up November's Premier League Manager and Player of the Month awards respectively.
It has been more than 11 years since Ranieri was shown the door by Abramovich.
It's hard to see the veteran still holding a grudge against the Russian oligarch.
And whatever animosity that existed between Ranieri and Mourinho from their many years of verbal and football battles should have long gone by now.
When Ranieri took up the Leicester post, Mourinho was the first manager to welcome him back to England. It will be difficult, though, for him to miss the irony.
Under Mourinho this season, Chelsea have struggled to replicate the form that saw them storm to the league title last season.
The Blues are 14th on the table, a whopping 17 points adrift of Ranieri's surprise package.
The Portuguese's mission is no longer about resurrecting their title challenge, but restoring respectability.
But every match seems to uncover new problems.
For the first time in his career, Mourinho appears at a loss to dig himself out of a hole.
"Hello my sharks, welcome to the funeral," Ranieri ominously said to the press before Chelsea's 2004 Champions League semi-final, second leg against Monaco, about a month before he was unceremoniously kicked out by Chelsea.
Mourinho spouting out those same words now wouldn't feel out of place.
Ranieri would rather not be drawn into his time at Chelsea ahead of the clash.
But even he probably won't be able to resist a victory jig should he get one over his former employers.
"I think Chelsea for me means a lot because it was my first team here (in England). For me I’m very proud I was their manager but now it’s an old story. My focus is Leicester."
— Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri
Ranieri and Vardy scoop awards
Leicester's Claudio Ranieri and Jamie Vardy have won November's Premier League Manager and Player of the Month awards respectively.
Vardy wins the accolade for the second successive month, having continued his scoring run in consecutive games to break Ruud van Nistelrooy's EPL record and extend it to 11 matches. The 28-year-old forward, who recently made his England debut, is the league's top scorer with 14 goals.
Ranieri, meanwhile, took Leicester back to the top of the league with victory over Swansea last weekend. The Italian was up against Juergen Klopp, who had been on a run of four straight wins with Liverpool, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino and Everton boss Roberto Martinez.
Vardy has beaten fellow England forwards Harry Kane and Ross Barkley to his prize, as well as Troy Deeney, Romelu Lukaku and Dejan Lovren. - PA Sport.
Ranieri has score to settle with Blues
Leicester striker Jamie Vardy, 28 (above), leads the scoring chart with 14 goals. He became the first player to score in 11 straight matches on Nov 29, eclipsing the mark set by former Man United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2003.
Last season, Chelsea were 26 points ahead of Leicester after 15 games. Today, Chelsea find themselves 17 points behind the Foxes.
Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez (above) is just the third Leicester player to score a Premier League hat-trick, after Ian Marshall and Stan Collymore.
- Norwich v Everton
- Crystal Palace v Southampton
- Man City v Swansea
- Sunderland v Watford
- West Ham v Stoke
- Bournemouth v Man United
- Aston Villa v Arsenal
- Liverpool v West Brom
- Tottenham v Newcastle