LONDON • Claudio Ranieri refuses to entertain any talk of Leicester City winning the Premier League title and the Italian has reinforced that message. He says he has no intention of copying US President Barack Obama's "Yes we can" slogan from the 2008 campaign.
Three points clear at the top of the table with 14 games remaining, Leicester travel to second-placed Manchester City today full of confidence. The Jamie Vardy-inspired 2-0 win over Liverpool on Tuesday night has led fans to ask whether their fairy-tale season could have the most remarkable ending.
Ranieri, however, has never got carried away at any stage and he is clearly not going to drop his guard now.
After playing a straight bat to a series of questions about Leicester's title prospects, the 64-year-old was asked whether it was becoming more difficult to play down their chances of winning the league as the weeks go by and they continue to set the pace.
"I'd like to say, 'Yes we can!' But I am not Obama," Ranieri said, smiling. "Then it is difficult for me to say this. If I maintain this suspense, it is much better for you."
The Italian broke into laughter when quizzed on whether he has said anything to his players about challenging for the title: "You want to know if I told something to my players? This is a secret!"
And there was more amusement when it was put to him that a brilliant passage of one-touch passing against Liverpool had prompted comparisons with Barcelona by football commentators.
"Calm, calm, calm," Ranieri said. "Our fans must dream. We must stay with our feet on the ground."
While Leicester are now viewed as legitimate title contenders in many people's eyes, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that finishing fourth and having the opportunity to play in the Champions League next season would be an incredible achievement for a club who were bottom of the table this time last year.
"Amazing," Ranieri said. "If we arrive fourth and go in the Champions League... unbelievable. I think all the people understand we are doing something extraordinary so far. What happens in the future I don't know but always we gave a very good gift to our fans."
He believes Leicester will pass a comprehensive test of their title credentials with flying colours when they face City today.
He is convinced his players are embracing the spotlight and will not wilt under the pressure of battling for their first top-flight title.
"My players are very intelligent in every situation. Maybe everybody believes in something special and they are working for something special. This is important," the manager said. "I think all the people understand we are doing something extraordinary so far."
However, he warned his players that City's "magicians" can pick up three points even if the Foxes play a perfect game, with their opponents' striker Sergio Aguero in top form, with five goals in his last three league games.
"Man City have too many dangerous players. You can play a perfect match but they'll win because they have magicians. It's an open game as they want to win. We want to win too, so it's open," Ranieri said.
"Our fans continue to dream. That is what we want. We know it's a tough match but from now there will only be tough matches."
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
MANCHESTER CITY V LEICESTER
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