Claudio Ranieri says Tottenham are the favourites

Claudio Ranieri has named Tottenham as title favourites as the Leicester boss moves to ease the pressure off his side.

Claudio Ranieri says Tottenham are the favourites

The Foxes are two points clear of Spurs in the Barclays Premier League and host West Brom tonight, with their rivals facing West Ham tomorrow night.

Tottenham’s 2-1 comeback win over Swansea on Sunday kept the pressure on Leicester, who beat Norwich 1-0 on Saturday, but Ranieri believes Mauricio Pochettino’s men are frontrunners.

He said: “Tottenham, in my opinion, are favourites, then Arsenal, Manchester City.

“Tottenham are strong in every situation. When they defend and when they attack, they know what they want. Everyone is speaking about Leicester but nobody is speaking about Tottenham.

“We are the surprise, that is fantastic, a good energy, but if we are realistic the real competitors are City, Arsenal, and Tottenham.

“Our job is done, we wanted to be safe and now there is something new. You can achieve something new if you think match-by-match.

“Now we are focused on West Brom, we know we can win, lose, or draw but it’s not important what the other teams do.”

Leicester have suffered a serious blow as talismanic midfielder N’Golo Kante is sidelined with a hamstring injury. Kante has been ruled out of the title-chasing Foxes’ next two matches. Andy King is expected to replace him but boss Claudio Ranieri feels Kante will not return before they head to Watford on Saturday.

He said: “We lose him for the next two matches. I hope only two. It’s a little painful, he suffered during all of the season and now we want to give him some rest. Two matches and he can restart.

“All the season he had a problem with the other leg and now this time the new leg. Maybe he made a compensation and charged too much on the other leg,” said Ranieri.

“He has been extraordinary but I am very confident because we played King and he has started very well. I am very confident with him.

“Let me now play and then I will tell you what I will lose (from Kante). N’Golo recovers a lot of balls but not only this, he starts the counter-attack. I am very confident Drinky (Danny Drinkwater) and Kingy could be the same, they are doing very well.”

Kante has featured in every league game for the Foxes this season, making 30 appearances and scoring once in November’s 2-1 win over Watford.

Meanwhile West Brom face an anxious wait to discover the extent of the knee injury Chris Brunt sustained at the weekend.

Brunt was carried from the pitch on a stretcher after falling awkwardly during the 3-2 home win against Crystal Palace. The midfielder, who has been filling in as a defender, will undergo a scan today to determine the severity of the problem.

Initial fears are that the 31-year-old could be set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines. That would be a blow for West Brom and compounded a miserable couple of weeks for Brunt after he was struck in the face by a coin thrown by an Albion fan at the end of the FA Cup defeat at Reading.

Baggies boss Tony Pulis said: “Brunty is going to see a specialist tomorrow so we will wait until he’s done that until we announce what is wrong with him.

“There are all sorts of different opinions so we will wait until the specialist sees him.

“I have only seen it from a distance so we will wait until the specialist makes an assessment and then we will let people know.

“Jonny Evans will come into it if he’s fit but basically it will be a similar team to Palace.”

Pulis will hope Evans can recover from his hamstring injury and replace Brunt at left-back, but Callum McManaman (ankle) and James Morrison (hamstring) will remain out against Leicester - who Pulis hopes go on to lift the title.

Claudio Ranieri and his team have been the surprise package of the season, transforming, initially under previous manager Nigel Pearson, from relegation certainties 12 months ago to potential champions.

“Nigel had done a wonderful job and Ranieri has continued it, actually made them better,” said Pulis. “He’s added one or two players - (N’Golo) Kante in midfield has been exceptional, a wonderful signing.

“(Jamie) Vardy and (Riyad) Mahrez have been exceptional. (Danny) Drinkwater has been absolutely fantastic in midfield. (Robert) Huth at centre-half and (Wes) Morgan, again the keeper’s done exceptional.

“For me, if you were saying which team would you like to win the Premier League out of those that are up there, it would be them. It would be fantastic if Leicester could do it, they’ve been a breath of fresh air really this year.”

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