Ranieri counting on star duo to extricate Foxes

LONDON • Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri has given winger Riyad Mahrez and striker Jamie Vardy a pep talk to try to rediscover their title-winning form from last season as the embattled champions fight to remain in the Premier League.

Vardy scored 24 goals and Mahrez chipped in with 17 goals as the Foxes surged to the title then, but they have contributed only five and three goals respectively this term.

With Leicester hanging precariously above the relegation zone, Ranieri has held talks with the pair in a bid to get them firing again.

"I have spoken with Riyad and I have spoken with Jamie and we know," Ranieri said.

"They link together well. You see how many goals they scored and how many passes they made last season, but this time no.

"I say to Riyad: 'Come back to last season, come back.' He is trying and he is positive and I am very happy when he is positive.

"I look at him smiling and that is OK. He is very important and now he is very concentrated on the last part of the season. I am very hopeful.

"Jamie works hard for the team, but this season we have scored very few goals and scoring three goals in one match (against Derby County in the FA Cup on Wednesday) was amazing and I hope this is good for the future."

Leicester have lost their last four league games without scoring.

Ranieri has also come under increasing pressure in recent weeks, with bookmakers slashing the odds on him becoming the next Premier League manager to be given the sack, but the Italian said he still had the support of the club's hierarchy.

"I speak with the owner," Ranieri said. "I have a very good relationship with him.

"The chairman is always positive, full of energy. He's fantastic."

Ranieri added that striker Leonardo Ulloa, who has vowed never to play for Leicester again after being denied a transfer last month, is injured for the Swansea game with forward Islam Slimani also doubtful.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 12, 2017, with the headline 'Ranieri counting on star duo to extricate Foxes'. Print Edition | Subscribe