Leicester ready to battle

Leicester City's Shinji Okazaki beats West Bromwich Albion's Jonas Olsson to the ball in Tuesday's 2-2 draw at the King Power Stadium. The Japanese striker will hope to get the nod to lead the line for his table-topping side when they visit Watford,
Leicester City's Shinji Okazaki beats West Bromwich Albion's Jonas Olsson to the ball in Tuesday's 2-2 draw at the King Power Stadium. The Japanese striker will hope to get the nod to lead the line for his table-topping side when they visit Watford, with Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri insisting he will not be distracted when guiding his team for their 10 remaining league games.PHOTO: REUTERS

Foxes return to site of play-off defeat with vastly different ambitions three seasons on

LONDON • Such is the job Claudio Ranieri has been doing at Leicester City that he has been linked with the Italy national team job.

Speculation is mounting that the Azzurri are keen to make the 64-year-old their next manager should Antonio Conte join Chelsea after Euro 2016.

But the Italian dismissed the link, insisting that he will not be distracted in his quest to lift his first major trophy with the Foxes.

"My focus is on Leicester," Ranieri told a press conference yesterday.

"There are 10 matches left. It'll be a big battle. Every match will be battles."

The surprise leaders head for Watford today still in the driving seat in an extraordinary Premier League title race.

The disappointment of a 2-2 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday was followed by the welcome bonus of seeing title rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Manchester City all lose 24 hours later.

So the Foxes, despite failing to take a host of chances to beat West Brom, will travel to Vicarage Road with their lead at the top of the table extended to three points.

"That's football," said Leicester winger Marc Albrighton, whose side edged Norwich City 1-0 last weekend with a late winner. "I think in the last two games at home, we have had a massive amount of chances to win both games.

"It was late on against Norwich to get the win but on Tuesday we kept pushing to the end and that was important."

Albrighton's team-mate Danny Drinkwater, who netted against Albion, added: "Tuesday was a point in the right direction.

"We're slightly disappointed not to get the three points but I feel we have played well and we can take a lot of positives into Saturday.

"We broke a resilient side down twice. They scored two goals as well but we can take positives."

With eight wins and just two defeats on the road, Leicester will take the best away record in the Premier League to Watford.

The Hornets, meanwhile, have won five and lost five of their 14 home games while striker Odion Ighalo has not scored in his last six matches.

Leicester beat Watford 2-1 at the King Power Stadium in November but the most memorable meeting between the clubs in recent years came in May 2013, when Watford triumphed 3-2 over two legs in a Championship play-off semi-final.

The Foxes recovered from that setback to win promotion to the Premier League a year later and now have their sights set on lifting the trophy in just their second season back in the top flight.

"It is going to be a really tough place to go (to)," Albrighton said.

"They have got some great players, some firepower up top, but we will be confident as ever. We are not going to let a point at home dampen any confidence in the camp."

Watford defender Sebastian Proedl, however, believes Watford are capable of beating the league leaders this weekend and influencing the title race.

"Every game at Vicarage Road so far this season has been tough for the opponent. So they should be warned," he said.

"They are big contenders for the title and it is a good opportunity for us to show how we have improved this season."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2016, with the headline 'LEICESTER READY TO BATTLE'. Print Edition | Subscribe