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One step at a time as Ranieri eyes Champs League

08 April 2016, 16:55

Leicester - Claudio Ranieri insists he will stay calm this weekend despite his Leicester City side standing on the brink of Champions League football.

The surprise Premier League leaders and title favourites could clinch a top-four finish mathematically if they beat Sunderland on Sunday and other results go in their favour.

But manager Ranieri says he will not be swept away by the prospect of a confirmed place in the Champions League.

He said: "What we do is important, before thinking about anybody else.

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"Then we can check the table later. I'll repeat to my players, it's important what we do.

"The others teams can win all their matches, so I must be focused.

"I expect Tottenham, Arsenal, everyone to win all their games and then I want to fight to achieve the Champions League. It would be a fantastic achievement.

"At this moment I don't look behind me, I look forward and to the next match. Sunderland is a very difficult match.

"I am very happy we saved the team (from relegation), that is important. Our fans continue to dream, a lot of children come to our training ground, it is fantastic.

"Everyone is looking at what happens in the last six matches.

"Me too. I am very curious, but we have to wait. There are a lot of people pushing behind us and that's important but it's important to keep our feet on the ground.

"Sunderland are desperate and it will be a big battle. Sometimes there is pretty football but I am waiting for a battle."

Despite his side's seven-point lead over their nearest challengers, Tottenham Hotspur, Ranieri is still refusing to discuss his side's challenge for the title.

Instead, he claims making sure of a place in the Champions League, after already guaranteeing Europa League football at worst, remains their priority.

They would secure a top-four finish if they win at the Stadium of Light, Manchester United lose to Tottenham and West Ham United drop points to Arsenal.

"From the beginning we have gone step by step," said the veteran Italian.

"Now, I think Europe is done. Now there is the Champions League.

"We are fighting for the Champions League. Let me play another three matches then I tell you something else.

"I want to achieve the Champions League now."

Ranieri will welcome Jeff Schlupp back for Sunday's trip after his knee injury, but the starting XI is likely to remain unchanged.

That means Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki will again lead the attack despite a recent shortage of goals that Ranieri insists is not a concern.

"It's not important," he said.

"Every time I talk to the strikers, I say it's not important if they score.

"Of course it's their job to score a goal.

"But Jamie, in the last two or three matches, didn't score but made the final pass.

"I look always at the performance, if everybody links together and if everybody fights together.

"If everybody helps each other, that is my priority."

Leicester have won five of their last six games 1-0 after being free-scoring earlier in the season.

But Ranieri said: "We create chances but at the end we score just one.

"It's important we don't concede a goal, then one is good. More or less, we create the same chances."



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