Leicester ro ut Swansea even with star man in the stand
Ulloa steps up to the task of replacing suspended Vardy as league leaders hammer lacklustre Swansea
CLAUDIO RANIERI, the Leicester City manager, last night called on his players to finish the job and win the Barclays Premier League.
The Foxes cruised to a 4-0 win over an insipid Swansea City side to move eight points clear at the top of the table ahead of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur’s home match with West Bromwich Albion this evening.
They need just five points from their final three games after being 5,000-1 to win the league at the start of the season and Ranieri, having only just broken his self-imposed ban on any kind of title talk, wants them to finish an unbelievable campaign in style.
Leonardo Ulloa replaced the suspended Jamie Vardy and scored twice while Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton also found the net in a straightforward afternoon’s work.
“I talked to my players before the match and I said: ‘We had a dream so far - now make a dream reality,” said Ranieri.
“Now is the right moment to push. If Tottenham are better than us, okay, but we have to fight because we will never have this fantastic moment.
“There are only three matches and we know they are important for our history. For this reason, we give everything.
“We play with our hearts and it’s difficult to beat those who play with the heart and soul.
“In my mind, Tottenham will win all the matches.
“We have to win five points and it’s done. It’s not easy, but we have to concentrate.”
Ranieri was particularly pleased by his side’s ability to record such a resounding win with their top scorer Vardy missing.
“It’s important because everyone wanted to see our answer without Jamie Vardy and that was a fantastic answer, in my opinion,” said the Italian. “Without Jamie, everyone made something more.
“I love to see my players fighting together.”
Ranieri reserved particular praise for Ulloa with the Argentinian undoubtedly the star man on the day.
“I am very, very pleased with Leonardo,” he said. “I am very pleased with Jeff Schlupp and all of my players.
“Leonardo made a fantastic performance. He jumped, he scored two goals, he attacked, he defended. Well done.
“We scored an early goal and played so, so well tactically.
“Very concentrated, very focused because Swansea want to build from behind and to move the ball quickly.”
Ulloa also made thoughts about his team-mates clear after the final whistle.
“I am happy because this team is unbelievable,” he said. “We miss Vardy as he is a very good player, but we knew we could play well and I enjoy playing with these team-mates.
“I am always ready to play and want to help the team. It is what I work for. I am just happy I could score two goals.”
Should Tottenham slip up at White Hart Lane this evening, Leicester can win the Premier League at Manchester United next week.
Swansea boss Francesco Guidolin watched his side capitulate after a mistake from captain Ashley Williams gifted Mahrez a 10th-minute opener.
They are safe this season, but have now shipped seven goals in their last two games following last week’s 3-0 defeat at Newcastle.
“Leicester deserve to win the title because this is a very strong team,” said Guidolin.
“This is a dream for Leicester and I understand a few weeks ago why Claudio had tears (at Sunderland).
“Today, I saw my team fight for 90 minutes against the strongest team in the Premier League.
“We have to improve on conceding goals. It is not a problem of defenders. It is a problem of the team.”
Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard, meanwhile, has revealed that the Stamford Bridge club are keen to help Leicester win the league ahead of their London rivals.
Spurs travel to Chelsea on May 2 and Hazard is eager to beat them and hand the title to Ranieri and his men.
“We don’t want Tottenham to win the Premier League, the fans, the club and the players,” said the Belgian international in an interview with Chelsea’s club website.
“In football, you never know. We hope for Leicester because they deserve to be champions, but we will see.
“We have a big game next week against Tottenham and if we can beat them, it will be good.”
FIGHTING FOXES: Manager Claudio Ranieri has a mock punch-up with his Leicester stars after they defeated Swansea 4-0