Claudio Ranieri sees no reason why Leicester City should be nervous as their against-all-odds Premier League title bid continues with Sunday’s visit of West Ham.
The Foxes are seven points clear of second-placed Tottenham with five games to go, having already secured a Champions League spot following a five-game winning streak.
Though Leicester were rank outsiders to win the league, Ranieri insists there are no nerves as they head down the home straight.
“Why be nervous? We are concentrating,” the Italian said. “We have to fight with a smile as our job is done. We are safe. That’s a miracle.”
After last weekend’s 2-0 win at Sunderland, Ranieri appeared to be crying as he applauded the jubilant travelling fans, but he explained: “I’m happy when the people that follow us are happy. I didn’t cry. My eyes shine but not cry!”
Portents of City’s remarkable campaign were evident as early as August’s reverse fixture at Upton Park, when Ranieri oversaw a 2-1 win that sent his side top of the table after just two games.
With another 31 matches gone it is a position they still proudly occupy, but Ranieri has repeatedly stated that his players have won nothing yet and he will be wary of a West Ham side who travel well.
Though winless in all competitions since March 5, Slaven Bilic’s side have lost only twice on the road in 2016 and will seek to prevent the hosts stretching their lead to 10 points, with Spurs not in action until Monday’s trip to Stoke City.
However, the Hammers will have to overcome the disappointment of Wednesday’s FA Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of Manchester United, which put a dampener on the club’s final game in the competition at Upton Park.
That snapped a run of four consecutive draws for Bilic’s men, who prior to that had won four in a row to boost hopes of Champions League qualification that have since faded.
In that streak of stalemates, Bilic saw his side throw away leads in each match and the gap to Manchester City in fourth is five points, while a Europa League berth is far from safe as Southampton, Liverpool and Stoke are all poised to capitalise on any slip-ups from West Ham.
A notable list of potential injury absentees further complicates the task at hand for the visitors, who may be without Diafra Sakho (knee), Alex Song (knock), Sam Byram (muscular) and Carl Jenkinson (knee).
Ranieri gave his squad a clean bill of health in the week that Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez received nominations for the PFA Player of the Year award.
Key Opta stats:
– West Ham have lost just four of their last 16 Premier League away games (W6 D6 L4).
– Leicester City have kept seven clean sheets in their last eight Premier League matches at the King Power Stadium.
– N’Golo Kante has made the most tackles (146) and interceptions (134) in the Premier League this season.
– Just two of Andy Carroll’s 12 Premier League goals since the start of 2014-15 have come away from home.
– Leicester have kept five consecutive clean sheets in the top flight for the first time in their history.
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