Replicate Europe form in EPL, demands Ranieri

Shinji Okazaki scores the first goal for Leicester City in the 2-1 victory against Club Brugge in the Champions League Group G match at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday. The victory sent the Foxes through to the last 16 in Europe.
Shinji Okazaki scores the first goal for Leicester City in the 2-1 victory against Club Brugge in the Champions League Group G match at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday. The victory sent the Foxes through to the last 16 in Europe.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Claudio Ranieri described Leicester City's progress to the knockout stage of the Champions League as group winners and with a match to spare as an "unbelievable" achievement, yet demanded his players now show the same level of performance domestically in order to climb well clear of the relegation zone.

The English club secured a place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a 2-1 victory over Club Bruges courtesy of goals from Shinji Okazaki and Riyad Mahrez, and can look forward to the draw in Nyon on Dec 12 with Ranieri not bothered in the slightest about who they will play.

"It's not important, believe me," the Leicester manager said. "I hope to be there in good condition, that is important. The name is not important. It will be another fairytale, win or lose it's not important."

Ranieri was full of praise for his players, who are guaranteed top spot in Group G after Porto could only draw 0-0 with Copenhagen.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "Top of the group, very happy, very proud for my players, very happy for the chairman, for the fans, for everybody. Another journey to the knockout - unbelievable."

Yet Ranieri stressed the need to address their form in the Premier League, where Leicester have lost six times and sit just two points above the relegation zone.

"Now our mind must go on the Premier League because I want to push my players to think about that," he said. "Our job is done (in the Champions League). I don't know which team we play, it will be a fantastic team, and we are very happy. But now we have to go back.

"In the Premier League we are very close to the relegation zone and we must play at the same level as the Champions League because when we want to do something, we achieve something. We must concentrate on the Premier League now."

The bad news for Ranieri is that it looks increasingly likely his team will be without Danny Drinkwater for their next three matches, after the England midfielder was charged with violent conduct for appearing to elbow Watford's Valon Behrami during the 2-1 defeat at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

The FA had been examining footage of the incident.

Neil Swarbrick, the referee, took no action at the time and it was not until the following day that the Football Association became aware of videos circulating on social media.

If Drinkwater is suspended, it would rule him out of their matches against Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Manchester City.

But he would be eligible to play in Leicester's final Champions League game, against Porto on Dec 7.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2016, with the headline 'Replicate Europe form in EPL, demands Ranieri'. Print Edition | Subscribe