Focused Leicester City ready for a title fight in 2016, declares Claudio Ranieri

Claudio Ranieri gave his Leicester stars permission to celebrate New Year’s Eve — provided they avoid a Bournemouth hangover.

Leicester go into 2016 second in the Barclays Premier League behind leaders Arsenal on goal difference after only just beating the drop last season.

They host the Cherries tomorrow and Ranieri trusted his players to see in the new year without damaging their title chances. “They can celebrate, they are very, very good professionals. It’s important to celebrate, to enjoy it, because it was a fantastic 2015 but afterwards we have to put our minds on Bournemouth,” he said.

“They are a very dangerous team. Bournemouth lost five in a row but before losing to Arsenal (2-0 on Monday) they made a fantastic positive run.

“For us it’s important to concentrate 100%.”

Jeff Schlupp remains out with a hamstring injury but Jamie Vardy is fully fit following a virus and Ranieri, who has lost just two league games this season, wants his side to maintain their form in 2016.

“We’ve had a fantastic half-season, it’s unbelievable what we are doing and we must continue. We are building the team, building the personality,” he said.

“We are building our minds at the top to fight. I know our fans are dreaming but it’s important to remember where we started.

“We will fight right until the end and we want to win. If we give 100% then we accept every result.”

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, meanwhile, hopes a few days’ well-earned rest will help his squad freshen up for the challenges ahead in 2016.

The Cherries head to Leicester looking to recover from the 2-0 defeat at Arsenal on Monday night, which brought to an end a run of six matches unbeaten.

Following the hectic festive Premier League schedule, Howe has made the most of five days between matches with a progressive fitness programme designed to give the players maximum recovery time before they run out at the King Power Stadium tomorrow.

“We haven’t trained since Arsenal, not the lads that played, anyway. With the fixture workload we really had to protect our players this week to make sure we go into the Leicester game with some energy, so we are toning down training,” said Howe, reporting no fresh injury problems.

“The general feeling is that you want to work all the time, but you have to be well aware of the physical exhaustion those two games in three days had on our players, it was an incredible physical effort.

“They were two really tough fixtures (over Christmas), so this is about making sure we can go into the Leicester game and perform, and the only way to do that is to recover properly.”


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