Champions League not a distraction, says Claudio Ranieri

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri has dismissed suggestions the Foxes have been distracted by the Champions League.

The struggling Premier League champions will reach the last 16 with a draw against Club Brugge tonight and only have to better Porto’s result against Copenhagen to win Group G.

While Ranieri’s men are unbeaten in Europe this season and are yet to concede a goal, but their league title defence is in tatters.

Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Watford left Leicester two points above the relegation zone and they have lost twice as many games, six, as they did during last season’s shock triumph.

Leicester are top of Group G, three points clear of Porto, but have only won three league games this season — failing to win before any European game — yet Ranieri said they remain focused on both fronts.

He said: “No, I don’t think it’s a distraction. It’s enjoyment. I don’t see the difference. If you see the match against Watford and the match against Copenhagen or Brugge or Porto, it’s the same. The difference is in the Champions League matches we score, in the other matches no.

“We achieved the third position (in the group) but of course now we want to achieve something more. Our fairytale is continuing, we did something special last season and we’re doing it again this season,” said the italian.

Exactly a year ago Jamie Vardy equalled the Premier League goalscoring record by netting in his 10th straight game, a 3-0 win at Newcastle.

A week later he broke it against Manchester United but is now without a goal in his last 13 Leicester games. The 29-year-old scored in England’s 2-2 draw with Spain last week but has not had a shot on target for his club since September.

Riyad Mahrez is also struggling to find top form but does have three goals and one assist in Europe having scored twice in September’s 3-0 win in Belgium.

Kasper Schmeichel remains sidelined with the hand he fractured in the 0-0 draw in Copenhagen this month and Slimani is out with a groin injury while Nampalys Mendy and Ben Chilwell (both ankle) are also sidelined.

Meanwhile the FA is examining footage of Leicester’s Danny Drinkwater appearing to elbow Watford’s Valon Behrami at Vicarage Road on Saturday.


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