Claudio Ranieri is more than happy to keep footing the bill if his promise of rewards helps Leicester City maintain the kind of spirit that has served them so well in the Premier League when they face West Brom on Saturday.
Leicester – who were knocked out of the League Cup on penalties by Hull City on Tuesday – have been the surprise package this term and sit fifth after losing just once in their 10 league matches.
One area of concern, though, was Leicester’s leaky defence with the team conceding 17 league goals.
That led to Ranieri’s now famous promise to buy the squad pizza for keeping a clean sheet, something they finally achieved in last weekend’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.
The Italian was happy to stump up and says the unity in the team is key to Leicester’s success.
“I think the most important ingredient is team spirit. The second most, is enjoyment. So that when they come training, they work hard, but they enjoy it,” he said ahead of the trip to The Hawthorns.
“And maybe on the top – a little bit of luck. I think they deserve this pizza. It’s good to get together for something good. This could help to make a very good team spirit for each other. I pay, so they are happy.
“I have offered rewards before in the past at other clubs and it is a good opportunity to sit down together. It helps the team bonding.”
The Hawthorns holds happy memories for Leicester as Jamie Vardy’s 90th-minute winner in a 3-2 thriller last April sparked a famous great escape from relegation.
But West Brom enter the fixture in good form themselves having recorded back-to-back 1-0 wins against Sunderland and Norwich City.
Salomon Rondon was on target at Carrow Road last weekend, but the Venezuela striker paid tribute to the crucial role played by defensive midfielder Claudio Yacob in West Brom’s recent success.
“Obviously I was very happy to score against Norwich on Saturday,” he told West Brom’s official website.
“My job as an attacker is to score goals but I am happy to have Claudio in my team to stop other sides scoring, I love playing with him.”
West Brom, who still have doubts over the fitness of James Morrison (ankle), will have to cope with the Premier League’s top goalscorer Vardy.
The in-form striker has netted in each of his last seven Premier League appearances, and aims to equal Daniel Sturridge and Ruud van Nistelrooy’s mark of eight, with the latter holding the record after scoring in 10 successive matches for Manchester United in 2003.
Vardy scored the winner against Palace to take his tally to 10, form that has seen him linked with Real Madrid and United this week.
Leonardo Ulloa could partner him after shaking off a knock that saw him miss the Palace game, while Jeff Schlupp is in contention having sat out the Hull encounter through suspension.
Key Opta stats:
– West Brom have lost just two of their last nine league meetings with Leicester (W6 D1), although one of those defeats came last time out; 3-2 last April at The Hawthorns.
– Leicester have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last 14 league clashes with the Baggies.
– Since April 4 2015, Leicester have lost just two of their 19 top-tier games (W12 D5) as well as picking up more points than any other side in that period (41).
– West Brom have lost just two of their last seven top-flight games (W4 D1), while they have registered five clean sheets in these matches.
– Indeed, since taking charge of his first West Brom game on Jan 10 2015, Tony Pulis has seen his side keep 16 clean sheets; three more than any other side.
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