Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri wants to be the “crazy man” who frightens the Premier League elite.
The Foxes have certainly shocked everybody this season, transforming themselves from relegation strugglers 12 months ago to serious title contenders under the Italian.
Ranieri’s side are level on points with leaders Arsenal, seven points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United, and the former Chelsea boss is revelling in Leicester’s role as the gatecrasher.
“Now it is a crazy league and we want to frighten this crazy league,” said Ranieri, whose team host Tottenham in a FA Cup third round replay tonight. “I want to be the most crazy man and team in the Premier League.It is a crazy league because if it was a normal league Leicester would not be at the top. The other bigger teams would be there.
“But there is an opportunity for us because the big teams don’t start yet. If they start then Leicester will fight but we would be in the middle (of the table).
“The big teams haven’t switched on turbo yet to go — and we hope they don’t switch on turbo.”
Despite the seven-point cushion for Champions League qualification and the nine-point gap to the final European qualification place in the Premier League table, Ranieri still remains guarded about the possibility.
He said: “I know what you want me to say, but also you know what I don’t want to say. I would like too much to give a dream to the fans, but it is January. Wait a little longer.”
Meanwhile, Matty James may make his long-awaited return to the Leicester squad against Tottenham in the cup. The midfielder has been out for eight months with a knee injury but could be on the bench after playing half an hour for the development squad on Monday.
“He could come with me on the bench in the next match,” said Ranieri. “For me Matty is very important. I watched a lot of matches from last season and he played very well with (Esteban) Cambiasso in the middle. He is young, he is strong, with a good personality, good skill, good vision. This is another very good player for me who can help the squad.”
Tottenham are yet to get the better of Leicester in three metings this season but manager Mauricio Pochettino believes his side can get the better of the Foxes tonight.
“It is a good challenge as they play with a different team in FA Cup, 10 players different from in the Premier League,” Pochettino said.
“They change all the team, only kept their goalkeeper and we lost. Now it’s a good chance to try to show we are better than them and win the game. We are ready to compete tomorrow. We have a good chance to go to next round and the FA Cup is important for us.”
Both sides are again likely to make several alterations to their line-ups when they meet at the King Power Stadium – but Pochettino insists that does not mean they are prioritising the Premier League over a cup run.
“We have some players in a condition where it’s a big risk to play tomorrow,” he said. “We have ahead of lot of games. Always we assess the players and maybe we take a decision to rest some.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved