Friday, March 24, 2017

Ranieri: Premier League title race still wide open

SoccerNews in English Premier League 14 Mar 2016

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Claudio Ranieri insists the Premier League title race is still wide open despite Leicester City restoring their five-point advantage at the top with a 1-0 home win over Newcastle United on Monday.

Striker Shinji Okazaki netted with a magnificent first-half overhead kick to seal victory for the Foxes in Rafael Benitez’s first match in charge of Newcastle.

The win – Leicester’s sixth in their last eight games – puts them five points clear of closest rivals Tottenham, while Arsenal and Manchester City are 11 and 12 points respectively behind the leaders with one game in hand.

With only eight matches left to play, Leicester are in pole position to go all the way, but Ranieri feels a number of sides are still in with a chance of topping the standings.

Asked if it was now a two-horse race between his team and Tottenham, Ranieri said to BBC Sport: “No, the race is open.

“We are fighting for Europe and then maybe with four or five matches left, maybe we are fighting for the Champions League. 

“I feel now that we are so strong, but we think only one game at a time. Step by step, that is our philosophy. I want to fight every match. 

“I am just concentrating on the next game against Crystal Palace – another tough match. Our concentration is important. We will go to battle there.”

Leicester did not produce a shot on target other than their goal against Newcastle, but Ranieri claims he was never worried about holding on to the result.

“No, I wasn’t nervous second half,” he said. “It was much better in the second half because the team was so close, so compact. 

“In the first half we conceded too many dangerous actions, but in the second we were more concentrated, won the first and second balls unlike before.

“I was sure it would be this kind of match. Their players showed Rafa their attitude and the Newcastle players are very, very good. I am sure that at the end they will be safe.

“The first match after a change is always like this. Everyone wants to show their strength and skill and are very concentrated at what the new manager tells them. For this reason I was waiting for a difficult match.

“It wasn’t the best performance from us but we showed fantastic spirit. We defended very well. We played and we fought.”

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