Claudio Ranieri hailed his Leicester City side as one of the best he has managed, but says it is still too early to know if they are genuine Premier League contenders after a comfortable 3-0 win over Stoke City sent them back to the summit.
Leicester’s dream season continued at the King Power Stadium as Danny Drinkwater’s first Premier League goal and second-half strikes from Jamie Vardy and Leonardo Ulloa ensured all three points.
Ranieri has coached the likes of Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Valencia, Roma and Juventus in his long career but says few are better than his current charges.
“This is one of the best [sides I have managed at]. Our strength is our passion,” Ranieri told BBC Sport. “We put everything into it and that is what I love about these players.
“It was a difficult match because Stoke City are a very difficult team, solid and strong. We wanted to win, and to be top of the league at the end of January is very important for us.
“Nobody can believe it. Our fans are dreaming and I want them to continue to dream. I don’t know if we are a contender at this moment. February is a big month and after that month I can say something more realistic.”
Vardy ended a run of seven games in all competitions without a goal when he rounded Jack Butland to make it 2-0, but Ranieri says he has been delighted with the England striker’s contribution despite his barren run.
He added: “I am pleased because I always tell Jamie Vardy it is not important to score a goal, it is important to press and when you score, then it is normal. I am very happy with him.”
Drinkwater put Leicester on their way to victory with a well controlled 20-yard half-volley that found its way home via a Marc Wilson deflection.
It was the midfielder’s first goal since April 2014 and the former Manchester United trainee reflected on a fine afternoon.
“It couldn’t have gone much better – three points and a goal,” he said. “The boss’ influence has been massive. The gaffer has helped all the players and brought in some quality.
“The lads will work their socks off for whoever is in charge.”