Claudio Ranieri has defended Leicester’s underwhelming Premier League form by insisting his players are ‘humans not machines’ but admits the Champions League will take precedence in the next month.
The English champions face Copenhagen at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday night with a victory taking them to the brink of qualifying for the knock-out stages.
Leicester’s results in Europe have been in stark contrast to those in their title defence, with the latest a 3-0 defeat to Chelsea on Saturday, but Ranieri has urged for patience.
Claudio Ranieri attended a Leicester City press-conference on Monday afternoon
Leicester host Copenhagen as they seek a third Champions League win out of three
‘Remember at the beginning of the season I said it’s normal when team a plays in Europe for the first time they lose a little something,’ said the Leicester manager. ‘The league is up and down, it’s normal. They are human, not machines.
‘We are in the right way. It’s normal to have something to work on at the start – new players come, new philosophy, the opponent knows us well.
‘We are Leicester – a good team when compact and when we show our qualities.’
Leicester have eight points from eight games to sit two points above the relegation places but Ranieri does not consider his side to be battling against the drop this campaign.
The Italian put his players through their paces on the training field earlier on Monday
Riyad Mahrez is expected to start after being dropped to the bench at the weekend
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‘I touch wood now but I think we can fight in every match,’ he said. ‘I am sure we will get better. We have to be solid. But we don’t make any pressure about relegation or something else.’
Ranieri also pointed out that his side had conceded 15 Premier League goals at the same stage last season, as opposed to 14 this time. ‘That’s improvement,’ he said, laughing.
He added more seriously: ‘My players made the world crazy with what happened last season. They showed fantastic spirit and character – a fairytale. Now I want them to show their strength and love.’
Ranieri rested Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani for the encounter at Stamford Bridge but both will be back for the visit of Copenhagen as Leicester look to capitalise on claiming six points from their two Group G games so far.
England striker Jamie Vardy shares a joke during Leicester’s training exercises
Kasper Schmiechel tests his shot-stopping ahead of Leicester’s Champions League return
‘Only for this month the Champions League is priority,’ said the Italian. ‘We want go to the knock-out. For this reason I saved some players.’
Ranieri also backed Jamie Vardy to come good, with the England striker failing to find the net in seven games for his club.
Alan Shearer accused the current FWA Footballer of the Year of sulking during defeat at Chelsea but Ranieri explained: ‘I told Jamie to stay with David Luiz – only with him as a point of reference. It is not his fault, mine maybe.
‘I am very confident in him – when he presses all the team follow behind him. He must maintain strength and sooner or later he will score.’
Last season’s Player of the Year Mahrez sprints around some obstacles in training
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