Football: Runaway leaders Leicester must keep calm, says Ranieri

Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez (third right) celebrates after scoring his team's first goal.
Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez (third right) celebrates after scoring his team's first goal.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - Leicester City must keep calm and carry on, manager Claudio Ranieri said on Saturday after a 1-0 win at Crystal Palace put them eight points clear at the top of the Premier League with seven games to play.

"We have been working so well and so hard during the season, we have to carry on and to be calm and enjoy it and be focused as well," Ranieri told the BBC.

After the final whistle, Leicester fans, increasingly scenting a first top-flight title for their unheralded club, stayed in the stadium for 15 minutes singing: "We're going to win the league", until persuaded to leave by the announcer.

"Our fans are singing a very good song but we have to stay calm because every match for us, you don't know what will happen," added Ranieri, saying the title was by no means a formality.

"It's not easy for us. We are Leicester. A team like (Manchester) United or City, Arsenal or Chelsea five or eight points clear, it would be finished. But us? No. We have to fight every match," the Italian told reporters.

 

This time last year Leicester were bottom of the league and they started this season as 5,000-1 outsiders to win the league.

They have now secured Europa League football next season at least and are close to clinching a Champions League place.

"For us it is important now to continue to push a lot because the Champions League is close and it would be a fantastic achievement," Ranieri said.

"Everybody is talking about us, not just in England but around the world. Everybody is pushing behind us. It's fantastic."

The winning goal came in the first half when Jamie Vardy found Riyad Mahrez 10m from goal with a crisp pass and the Algerian beat goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey with a low shot for his 16th league goal of the season.

For sixth from bottom Palace it was another frustrating afternoon marked by their inability to score. They have not won in 13 league games and are the only team in the top four English leagues without a league victory this year.

Manager Alan Pardew said they needed to break that run to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle.

"The bottom line is we need points and quickly," he said, adding he was impressed by Leicester.

"From what I've seen today they would be worthy champions. Pardew explained.