Tables turned for Foxes & Blues

LONDON • A year ago this weekend, leaders Chelsea had just lost their first Premier League game of the season after 15 matches, while Leicester City were stuck at the bottom with only two victories.

In an extraordinary reversal of fortunes, the teams are preparing for Monday's meeting at Leicester with the home side top and Jose Mourinho's champions stuck in 14th place.

In an added irony, the man who has taken Leicester to the head of the table, Claudio Ranieri, was sacked by Chelsea in 2004 to facilitate Mourinho's arrival.

"I said a couple of weeks ago, I didn't believe they can be champions," Mourinho told a news conference yesterday. "Maybe I have to think twice before I say that again.

"One thing is to be top of the league in September. Another thing is to be top in December."

November's manager of the month, Ranieri, he said, should be acclaimed as "manager of the half-term" as the season approaches its midway stage with the traditionally busy Christmas period.

Mourinho was keen to point out that Leicester's rise and his team's demise are two separate things.

"They are where they are because they are doing magnificent and we are where we are because we are doing bad," he said.

Mourinho added that Chelsea's poor results have made him "embarrassed" and unsure how to respond when fans chant his name.

Despite that, and a stunning home defeat by promoted Bournemouth last weekend, the Portuguese believes Chelsea's win over Porto in midweek and their improved defensive record - with one goal conceded in five games - means they can still qualify for next season's Champions League.

"We can get a run of four or five wins in a row and we can finish fourth," he said. "Independent of the defeat against Bournemouth, I think the team are improving."

Ranieri believes there is never a good time to face the Blues and expects a difficult match on Monday.

"I think Chelsea for me means a lot because it was my first team (in England)," the Italian said.

"I worked there for four years and I think well. For me I'm very proud I was their manager but now it's an old story. My focus is Leicester.

"This (Chelsea's league position) doesn't mean anything because Chelsea is Chelsea, Mourinho is Mourinho. When they start to win, they can arrive (higher in the league)."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline 'Tables turned for Foxes & Blues'. Print Edition | Subscribe