Riyad Mahrez is concentrated on helping Leicester City win the Premier League rather than any individual glory coming his way as they look to take another step towards a historic title against Swansea City on Sunday.
Mahrez has been nominated for the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Player of the Year award after helping to fire the Foxes, against all odds, to a five-point lead over Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham at the top of the table with four matches of the campaign remaining.
There is likely to be extra emphasis on the Algeria playmaker to perform versus Swansea, with fellow Player of the Year candidate Jamie Vardy suspended after being sent off in a 2-2 draw at home to West Ham last time out.
And Mahrez’s focus is firmly on helping Leicester achieve a fairytale triumph, with personal prizes a lower priority.
“I would prefer to win the title even if I am not a big player,” he told the Leicester Mercury.
“The first thing is the team and then after, yes, to be part of things and score a lot of goals, and assists, of course I am proud of it, but I don’t think too much about me, just the team.
“It is good to hear people say nice things about me, especially from good players, but I don’t want to speak too much about me. The team is the most important thing and then afterwards if I receive some awards it would be good, but it is not my objective.”
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri acknowledged Mahrez, discovered by the Foxes playing for Le Havre in Ligue 2, as the one who sparks the team into life.
“Mahrez is fantastic,” he said. “Riyad is our light. When he switches on, Leicester change colour.”
The Premier League leaders are unbeaten in eight games, but last Sunday’s stalemate with the Hammers saw Leicester drop points for the first time in six outings.
Leonardo Ulloa is the most likely player to be drafted into Ranieri’s starting XI in place of Vardy, but Nathan Dyer – on loan from Swansea – is ineligible to face his parent club.
For his part, Swansea head coach Francesco Guidolin – who has no injury concerns to contend with – hopes Leicester and Italian compatriot Ranieri are able to cling on for the title.
He said: “Spurs and Leicester, Pochettino and Ranieri, they are different. Pochettino is a young manager working with a very big team and my opinion is that Tottenham are the best team in the Premier League – but I hope Claudio wins it.
“He is an expert manager and he works with a smaller team and club, but he is still dreaming and this for a manager, for players, for fans, is fantastic.”
Opta Key Stats:
– The Swans have won none of their last 11 trips to play Leicester in all competitions. (D3 L8).
– On home soil, the Foxes have won each of their last five against Swansea in all competitions, and are unbeaten in the last 11 (W8 D3).
– Claudio Ranieiri’s side have kept five clean sheets in their last six top-flight games, only shipping goals in that period against West Ham last time out.
– Swansea have enjoyed just two victories in their last 12 Premier League away games, drawing three and losing seven.