Clau­dio Ranieri de­fends splut­ter­ing Le­ices­ter

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

SUN­DER­LAND: With their Pre­mier League ti­tle de­fence in dis­ar­ray, Le­ices­ter man­ager Clau­dio Ranieri has been forced to de­fend the splut­ter­ing cham­pi­ons ahead of to­day’s trip to Sun­der­land.

Ranieri backed his ti­tle-win­ning stars af­ter crit­i­cism of their league form, which has fallen well be­low last sea­son’s re­mark­able stan­dards. The Ital­ian, whose team are only two points above the rel­e­ga­tion zone, at­tempted to ex­plain the dif­fer­ence be­tween his side’s stel­lar Cham­pi­ons League per­for­mance in their de­but sea­son and their poor dis­plays in do­mes­tic games.

Ranieri was also forced to de­fend his club’s trans­fer busi­ness as ques­tions in­ten­sify about the im­pact of their sign­ings.

Club record buy Is­lam Sli­mani, who is in line to start at the Sta­dium of Light, is the only one of the new re­cruits to make a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact with five goals in 10 games since the for­ward’s ar­rival from Sport­ing Lis­bon.

But Ranieri said: “The re­cruit­ment is very good and I’m very happy, but it’s not al­ways cer­tain when you bring in new play­ers they start very well.

“Riyad Mahrez started (play­ing well) in his sec­ond year. If he need six or seven months, imag­ine the oth­ers.”

Ahmed Musa, a striker signed from CSKA Moscow, has started just five league games so far, while winger Bar­tosz Ka­pustka has not played at all.

Free trans­fer de­fender Luis Her­nan­dez has made just three league ap­pear­ances and goal­keeper Ron-Robert Zieler has been un­con­vinc­ing. Mid­fielder Nam­palys Mendy, who was signed from Nice to re­place the in­flu­en­tial N’Golo Kante af­ter his move to Chelsea, has made just one ap­pear­ance due to in­jury.

But Mendy, 24, could re­turn to the squad at Sun­der­land af­ter train­ing this week fol­low­ing an­kle surgery.

“He has worked with us and done all the train­ing ses­sions this week pain-free,” Ranieri said.

“He lacks stamina but he is get­ting bet­ter. I have to de­cide but think he is OK for the bench. Maybe he can play for half an hour.”

Mean­while, Ad­nan Januzaj in­sists Le­ices­ter hold no fears for strug­gling Sun­der­land.—AFP

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