West Ham a must-win game for Foxes: Ranieri

Leicester City's Danny Drinkwater is set to make his first Premier League start since Nov 22 after serving a three-match ban and recovering from a knee injury.
Leicester City's Danny Drinkwater is set to make his first Premier League start since Nov 22 after serving a three-match ban and recovering from a knee injury.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Claudio Ranieri admits victory is a must for Leicester against West Ham today, and he is ready to turn to his struggling big guns in his moment of need.

The Italian is set to recall Riyad Mahrez after dropping the Algerian for the 2-0 defeat by Everton on Boxing Day.

Danny Drinkwater is also expected to make his first Premier League start since Nov 22, after a three-match suspension and having recovered from a knee injury.

The pair will return with leading striker Jamie Vardy still suspended, for a game Ranieri believes is pivotal to his side's prospects of avoiding a relegation battle.

The champions have lost nine of their 18 league games so far, leading to fears of a battle for survival just a year after they swept to the most unlikely title in Premier League history.

"West Ham is a must-win game," said Ranieri, whose side reach the halfway stage of their season against the Hammers.

"We have to get to 'the turn' at 20 points - now we have 17. We have to win."

Mahrez is set to return after a public rebuke from Ranieri in the wake of the Everton defeat, in which the forward figured as a second-half substitute.

The Leicester manager claimed after that game the Algerian was left out to 'stimulate' him after below-par displays in training.

"I hope he has reacted well," said Ranieri. "I watched him during training last week and he was a little tired. I decided to give him a rest. He will play the next match and I want to see a reaction."

In contrast, West Ham will arrive at the King Power Stadium in excellent spirits after three straight victories, and could well be able to name an unchanged line-up.

"I want to build on our recent performances," West Ham manager Slaven Bilic said.

"We've had 10 points from four games and we know it will be extremely hard against Leicester. We are in good form and we are very positive. We have to do everything we can to continue this."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LEICESTER V WEST HAM
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2016, with the headline 'West Ham a must-win game for Foxes: Ranieri'. Print Edition | Subscribe