Claudio Ranieri defends spluttering Leicester
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