LONDON • Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri is steeling his title-chasing players for a pivotal trip to Manchester United on Sunday, but believes there is no match for his team's "heart and soul".
Leicester, who dramatically escaped relegation from the Premier League last season, went eight points clear at the top of the table after crushing Swansea City 4-0 on Sunday.
They require five points from their last three games to claim the club's first ever championship.
Second-placed Tottenham can trim Leicester's lead to five points by beating West Bromwich Albion this morning (Singapore time) and, with United buoyant after their FA Cup semi-final victory over Everton, Ranieri warned that the race is still far from run.
"I'm optimistic, I'm positive. And I know it is not easy because in my mind Tottenham will win all the matches and then we need five points," said the Italian, whose side host Everton in their final home game on May 8 before finishing the season at outgoing champions Chelsea a week later.
HEARTS ON THEIR SLEEVES
We play with our heart and it's difficult to beat a team who play or fight with heart and soul.
CLAUDIO RANIERI, Leicester City manager, on the biggest quality of his EPL-leading team.
"It's not easy. Three matches, two away and one at home. And we must be very, very concentrated as well."
Leicester were missing their 22-goal top-scorer Jamie Vardy through suspension against Swansea, but his replacement, Leonardo Ulloa, made sure he was not missed.
The Argentinian contributed a brace, and together with strikes from newly-crowned Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton, the Foxes recorded their biggest win of the season.
Ranieri's decision to bring in Jeffrey Schlupp on the left was vindicated with an outstanding performance. The Ghanaian gave Leicester the pace and directness that they might have otherwise been missing in Vardy's absence.
Vardy also stands to miss the trip to Old Trafford after accepting a Football Association charge for misconduct over his furious reaction to being sent off in the 2-2 draw with West Ham.
And Ranieri knows United will be a different prospect to sleepwalking Swansea.
"Once, you can do a fantastic performance without Jamie, but, if Jamie takes another day off with suspension, it's important to be solid, to be stronger than today because United is a very good team," he said.
Leicester's fans, who created a riotous atmosphere at the King Power Stadium, celebrated victory with a sardonic chant of "4-0 to the one-man team!" - as the evidence was supplied about how daft it was to suspect Leicester without Vardy would take on the form of a flower without water.
Ranieri, who wept on the pitch following the recent 2-0 win at Sunderland, said the emotion fuelling his side made them a formidable proposition.
"Why must we be nervous?" he asked. "We enjoyed all the season. We are doing a fantastic season. We have achieved a lot.
"Now there are only three matches we know are very important for our history. But for this reason we give everything.
"We play with our heart and it's difficult to beat a team who play or fight with heart and soul."
Leicester have now kept seven clean sheets in their past nine fixtures and look, in short, like champions-in-waiting.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN