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