Claudio Ranieri has demanded perfection from his Leicester City players when they host Arsenal at the King Power Stadium on Saturday as he aims to frustrate the Londoners’ title bid.
Leicester have been one of the surprises of the season so far and, as the only unbeaten side in the division, sit fourth in the table with 12 points from six games, two points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal.
Ranieri has acknowledged that Arsene Wenger arguably has the better players at his availability, yet he is hopeful Leicester can spring a surprise if they are at their best.
“We are only thinking about Arsenal. We are ready, but they are a smart and fast team. They will fight for the title,” Ranieri said at a press conference.
“To beat Arsenal we must play the perfect match. They don’t have weaknesses, but even if they did, I wouldn’t tell you.”
Ranieri will have to make do without Matthew James and Nathan Dyer, as the former is out of action for the remainder of 2015, while the latter is still recovering from a knee injury.
The Italian coach can count on Riyad Mahrez, though, and the Algeria international will be his side’s man to watch at the weekend. The 24-year-old has had a hand in eight goals in the Premier League this season; more than any other player.
Arsenal, meanwhile, will be keen to build on their 2-1 League Cup win over Tottenham from Wednesday and put last week’s defeat at the hands of Chelsea well and truly behind them.
The Gunners are currently trailing leaders Manchester City by five points and can ill afford to drop further points against Leicester if they are to stay on the tail of Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
Arsenal will be boosted by the return of Santi Cazorla, who missed the win over Spurs due to suspension, as the Spaniard has created the most goalscoring chances (23) as well as completed the most passes (471) in the Premier League this season.
However, they are still without long-term absentees Jack Wilshere (ankle), Tomas Rosicky (knee) and Danny Welbeck (knee), while it remains unclear whether Francis Coquelin will return from his knee injury in time for Saturday’s encounter
Wenger has reasons to be optimistic heading into Saturday’s encounter as Leicester haven’t beaten Arsenal since their debut season in the Premier League in 1994-95, drawing six times and losing on 11 occasions since.
The Frenchman will be hoping that record can inspire Alexis Sanchez to open his account for 2015-16 after a disappointing start to the season. The Chile international has had more attempts at goal than any other player in the Premier League this season (31), but is yet to score.