October 23, 2016

Ranieri irked by Leicester’s split personality


Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri urged his side to take their fine European form into the Premier League after they closed on a place in the Champions League last 16.

Riyad Mahrez’s goal earned Leicester a 1-0 win over FC Copenhagen on Tuesday, extending their 100 percent record in Group G and leaving them one win away from the knockout phase.

But the English champions are toiling domestically, having lost four and won just two of their first eight fixtures, and Ranieri wants Leicester to get rid of their split personality.

“For one side, I’m very proud. For the other side, when I think of the Premier League, I’m very, very angry,” the Italian told reporters at the King Power Stadium.

“But it’s OK, because also in my career this has happened. When for the first time you go and play in a big competition, you lose something when you go back in your league.

“You spend a lot of energy, mental energy, in the Champions League. When you come back a little more down, it’s normal.

“But we want to change this mood now, because the Premier League is now important. The Premier League is our priority.

“But of course also the Champions League because now, in one month, three matches, we’re in or out. We are in a good position. Our destiny is in our hands. We want to continue this way.”

Mahrez struck in the 40th minute, volleying home with the outside of his left foot after Jamie Vardy’s deep cross from the left had been headed back across goal by Islam Slimani.

It was a performance in keeping with Leicester’s 5,000-1 league title success last season, with Copenhagen seeing 54 percent of possession and registering four shots on target to the hosts’ two.

But Leicester’s 100 percent record was only preserved thanks to a last-minute save by their Copenhagen-born goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who batted away a close-range Andreas Cornelius shot.

‘Good feeling’

Leicester are now assured of at least a place in the Europa League and they can seal a place in the Champions League last 16 if they win the return fixture in Copenhagen on November 2.

“It’s good to go in the Europa League. Now we have to go in the Champions League,” Ranieri said. “Little step, step by step.”

Danish champions Copenhagen had previously gone 23 games without defeat, stretching back to last season, but they remain in second place in the group, five points below Leicester.

“I can live with that,” said Copenhagen coach Stale Solbakken on the end of his team’s unbeaten run.

“We can start counting again. That doesn’t bother me, really. The important thing for us now is to get back and focus on the league.

“Leicester come on November 2. Hopefully we can do a similar performance. We have our fans behind us and maybe that can be the difference. We very rarely lose in Parken (Stadium).”

He added: “You can always fear the game in Porto (where Copenhagen drew 1-1) was a one-off in a difficult away game.

“But now we’ve met the two favourites in the group away and we could have had three points, we could have had zero. They’ve been very close, both games.

“The players have a good feeling we can beat them in Parken in 14 days. We’re still number two in the group.

“I’m very happy Porto beat (Club) Brugge (in the other group game) because for us it’s easier to win the UEFA Cup (Europa League) than the Champions League!”

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