Claudio Ranieri wants Leicester City to live up to their billing as Premier League champions when they close the season at his former club Chelsea on Sunday.
Leicester and their manager will be granted a “guard of honour” at Stamford Bridge, a ground where Ranieri is largely remembered fondly for his spell in charge between 2000 and 2004.
However, his failure to secure a major honour before making way for Jose Mourinho helped to form his unfortunate tag of being a nearly man – one now emphatically jettisoned by Leicester’s march to glory.
“I’ve been back there with Juventus in the Champions League but this time is different because I’m manager of Leicester,” Ranieri said at his pre-match media briefing.
“It’s emotional, I hope my old fans are happy with me. Now I came back as a champion. It’s a good story.
“Now we are champions, we have to play like champions. I want to see my players show the same attitude.”
Ranieri will welcome back Danny Drinkwater from suspension, while fellow England international Jamie Vardy will be available to play despite his boss confirming he must undergo wrist surgery.
Vardy, who collected his Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year award this week before being granted the same honour by the Premier League, has played in a cast since breaking two bones in his right wrist during September’s 3-2 win over Aston Villa.
The operation will not hinder the 29-year-old’s participation in Euro 2016 and Ranieri expects to have his star striker available for next season’s curtain-raiser.
“The operation is a little operation – he’ll be ready for the Community Shield,” he said. “I think no impact on next season – I’ll speak to the surgeon.”
Guus Hiddink will close his second stint as interim Chelsea boss at the weekend and Leicester played a decisive part in his return – December’s 2-1 defeat at the King Power Stadium being the result that immediately preceded Mourinho’s departure.
The veteran Dutch tactician has been pleased by the response of his players to their early-season adversity and wants them to build on the positives from Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Liverpool, where Christian Benteke’s last-gasp equaliser saw the hosts escape with a draw.
“My recent memory of playing at Anfield was a pleasant memory – we played as I love them to play, except the 92nd minute,” Hiddink told a pre-match news conference.
“That’s how Chelsea should play. We managed to play as we like to play. What I like very much is I spoke to the players in December [and told them] not to look back – look forward.
“Look back, maybe to what you have not brought to the team – I said I didn’t want the answers right away, I wanted them on the pitch. I can be satisfied with how the team reacted.”
John Terry was offered a one-year contract extension on Friday to renew his career-long association with Chelsea, but the former England captain is suspended following his red card at Sunderland.
Diego Costa is sidelined with a hamstring injury and the striker now faces a race to be in contention for Spain’s Euro 2016 squad.
Key Opta stats
– Leicester City’s 2-1 win over Chelsea in December ended a run of six straight wins in the fixture for the London side.
– Claudio Ranieri’s champions have 38 points away from home this season and will end the campaign with the best on-the-road points haul in the division.
– Leicester have equalled the record for penalties won in a single Premier League season of 13, which was set by Crystal Palace in 2004-05.
– Claudio Ranieri can register his 100th Premier League win in this game (W99 D48 L36). He would become the 18th manager to achieve the milestone.
– If Wes Morgan plays the full 90 minutes he will become only the third player in history to play every minute of a title-winning Premier League season, after Gary Pallister in 1992-93 and John Terry last term.