Clau­dio Ranieri: ET land­ing more likely than Le­ices­ter City de­fend­ing ti­tle

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

LON­DON - Clau­dio Ranieri says there is more chance of ET land­ing in cen­tral Lon­don than Le­ices­ter City re­tain­ing their English Premier League soc­cer ti­tle.

Ranieri’s Foxes as­ton­ished world of football when they de­fied their 5000-1 start­ing odds to romp to glory last sea­son.

But ahead of to­day’s sea­son opener against Hull, Ranieri said: “We can’t win the league. For this rea­son I say the book­mak­ers must make us 6000-1 this time.

“It is im­pos­si­ble. It is more likely that ET lands in Pic­cadilly Cir­cus.”

He reck­ons the chances of all the recog­nised big guns fail­ing to get their act to­gether are zero.

“Ev­ery­thing is dif­fer­ent which means in a way there’s less pres­sure on us.

“Five or six teams can win. There will be a very good fight and we want to show what a team we are and do our best of course.”

What­ever the out­come, Ranieri is con­fi­dent star man Riyad Mahrez will be in his cor­ner. The Al­ge­rian has been linked with big-money moves to Ar­se­nal and Barcelona among oth­ers and has yet to sign a new deal.

But Ranieri re­vealed he has spe­cial rea­son to be­lieve that the PFA Player of the Year will be go­ing nowhere — mur­der!

Ranieri said: “Never, never, never, has Riyad come to me and said ‘Coach, I want to go’. Maybe the rea­son for that is I would kill him. I would throt­tle him. He’s a lucky man!”

The Al­ge­rian has been linked with big money moves to Ar­se­nal and Barcelona among oth­ers and is yet to sign a bumper new deal. But The Foxes boss re­vealed he has spe­cial rea­son to be­lieve that the PFA Player of the Year will be go­ing nowhere – mur­der! “It’s not a prob­lem hav­ing all this spec­u­la­tion about Riyad. It’s a process you go through when you are play­ing well. “When there is all this at­ten­tion around you, it is be­cause you are do­ing well. “He ac­tu­ally needs to feel that there are other teams and other man­agers who want him.” Mean­while, three months and six days af­ter their glit­ter­ing coro­na­tion as English Premier League cham­pi­ons, Ranieri’s Le­ices­ter City launch the new sea­son with a trip to pro­moted Hull City to­day. The nov­elty of their 5 000-1 tri­umph is still to wear off, but Le­ices­ter are al­ready look­ing to the fu­ture. Mid­field lynch­pin N’Golo Kante and trans­fer mas­ter­mind Steve Walsh have both left, but the club have signed sev­eral new re­cruits and Ranieri is de­ter­mined to en­sure they do not fall off the map. “We’re build­ing and slowly get­ting bet­ter. It’s im­por­tant to for­get last sea­son and build our squad,” said the Ital­ian, who has signed a new four-year con­tract.

“I am very cu­ri­ous. All the world is cu­ri­ous (about) what will hap­pen with Le­ices­ter. I am very cu­ri­ous to see where we fin­ish.

“Last sea­son we made some­thing un­be­liev­able. But now the big teams will come back, I am sure.”

Ranieri could hand league de­buts to sev­eral play­ers to­day.

Nam­palys Mendy, Kante’s re­place­ment, and 16.6 mil­lion pounds record sign­ing Ahmed Musa are among those in con­tention.

Ranieri’s men had a mixed pre-sea­son, los­ing heav­ily to Paris Saint-Ger­main and Barcelona, but Manch­ester United needed a late Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic goal to beat them in last Sun­day’s Com­mu­nity Shield.

Le­ices­ter’s odds of re­tain­ing the ti­tle are 33-1 and with United, Manch­ester City, Chelsea, Ar­se­nal, Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur and Liver­pool all strength­en­ing, they are tipped to fall out of the Cham­pi­ons League places.

In any case, they could scarcely have asked for bet­ter open­ing day op­po­si­tion than cri­sis club Hull.

Steve Bruce re­signed as man­ager three weeks ago, re­port­edly in frus­tra­tion over the club’s lack of trans­fer ac­tiv­ity, and Hull ap­proach the cam­paign with a thread­bare squad that does not fea­ture one se­nior sign­ing.

Tot­ten­ham, who fell away to fin­ish third af­ter threat­en­ing to pip Le­ices­ter to the ti­tle, open their cam­paign at Ever­ton.

The Spurs team that starts the new sea­son will be very sim­i­lar to the one that fin­ished the last one, with Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino at the helm and the first-choice XI largely un­changed.

“When you spend a lot of money it’s be­cause you are wor­ried about your squad and des­per­ate to im­prove it,” Po­chet­tino said.

“I’m very happy with my play­ers and be­cause of that I’m very quiet and re­laxed. I trust my squad 100 per­cent.”

It has been all change at Ever­ton, where Ron­ald Koe­man has suc­ceeded Roberto Martinez as man­ager and Wales cap­tain Ash­ley Wil­liam has come in to re­place the Manch­ester City-bound John Stones.

Stones could make his de­but against Sun­der­land to­day, when Pep Guardi­ola leads City in a com­pet­i­tive fix­ture for the first time.

The for­mer Barcelona and Bay­ern Mu­nich coach has sanc­tioned around 150 mil­lion pounds in trans­fer spending, but Stones and Span­ish winger Nolito are likely to be the only new re­cruits at his dis­posal this week­end.

There is an ex­pec­ta­tion that the sea­son will be de­fined by the re­sump­tion of the ri­valry be­tween Guardi­ola and his for­mer Real Madrid neme­sis Jose Mour­inho, who takes Manch­ester United to Bournemouth on Sun­day.

Ibrahi­movic, Eric Bailly and Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan could get their first taste of English league football at the Vi­tal­ity Sta­dium.

But the game is likely to come too soon for Paul Pogba, who com­pleted his world-record 89 mil­lion pounds re­turn to United from Ju­ven­tus ear­lier this week.

The first heavy­weight clash of the sea­son ar­rives to­mor­row, when Jur­gen Klopp’s Liver­pool, who crushed Barcelona 4-0 in a re­cent friendly, visit Arsene Wenger’s Ar­se­nal.

With Klopp, Guardi­ola, Mour­inho, Ranieri, Po­chet­tino and Chelsea’s An­to­nio Conte all jostling for po­si­tion on the start line, Wenger has dubbed this sea­son “the world cham­pi­onship of man­agers”.

For­mer Italy man­ager Conte be­gins his Chelsea re­pair job at home to West Ham United on Mon­day.

All three pro­moted teams are in ac­tion to­day, with Cham­pi­onship cham­pi­ons Burn­ley host ing Sw a n s e a City and Mid­dles­brough en­ter­tain­ing Stoke City.

There will be two new man­agers on show at St Mary’s, where Claude Puel be­gins his Southamp­ton tenure against Wal­ter Maz­zarri’s Wat­ford.

Mean­while, beaten FA Cup fi­nal­ists Crys­tal Palace take on West Bromwich Al­bion at Sel­hurst Park.

Riyad Mahrez

Clau­dio Ranieri Le­ices­ter City coach

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