Football: Leicester boss Ranieri eases pressure on "sad" Mahrez who missed 2 consecutive penalties

Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez in action during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Leicester City.
Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez in action during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Leicester City.PHOTO: EPA

LONDON • Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri believes today's FA Cup third-round replay against Tottenham Hotspur is another chance for his players to show what they are made of.

And one such footballer is playmaker Riyad Mahrez, whose confidence has been dented after missing his last two penalties.

The Algerian, outstanding in Leicester's unlikely rise to the Premier League summit, has missed consecutive penalties against Bournemouth and Aston Villa.

Leicester led bottom side Villa 1-0 on Saturday but Mahrez, with 13 league goals this season, wasted the opportunity to double the lead when his tame penalty was saved. Villa then battled back for a 1-1 draw.

"Riyad was a little sad (after missing)," Ranieri told reporters on Monday. "I spoke with him and I said, 'Come on man, even champions miss penalties.' "

The Italian then revealed that he would relieve Mahrez of the penalty-taking duties for now.

"I said (to Mahrez), 'Don't worry, take a little break and you'll have a chance to take them again.'

"I will speak with my players about who takes them.

"Last season, Leo Ulloa took them but it could be Jamie Vardy. I will see."

Leicester, second in the league behind Arsenal on goal difference, host Spurs at the King Power Stadium today, with the winners earning a fourth-round away trip to third-tier Colchester United.

The two are meeting for the third time in 10 days after drawing the original tie 2-2 at White Hart Lane on Jan 10, before Leicester returned to north London three days later and won 1-0 there in the Premier League.

Ranieri has hinted that he will not make too many changes to his side.

"I think it is not right to change a lot because Tottenham play in the same way," he told the club's official website. "They are 25 players and play the same shape."

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino made seven changes to his side for their first Cup clash.

The Argentinian has suggested that players would be rested today but insisted he was not prioritising the league.

"It's not that I prioritise," he said. "It's impossible to play with the same players every game. It's very difficult.

"Sometimes we need to pick different players, to share the minutes and try to play like this.

"It's important - you need to understand that we have 24, 25 players in the squad and it's for that. It's difficult to rest, to be fresh and to perform well in different games."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2016, with the headline 'Ranieri eases pressure on 'sad' Mahrez'. Print Edition | Subscribe