Claudio Ranieri described Leicester City’s progress to the knockout stage of the Champions League as group winners and with a match to spare as an “unbelievable” achievement, yet demanded his players now show the same level of performance domestically in order to climb well clear of the relegation zone.
Leicester secured a place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a 2-1 victory over Club Brugge courtesy of goals from Shinji Okazaki and Riyad Mahrez, and can look forward to the draw in Nyon on 12 December with Ranieri not bothered in the slightest about who they will play. “It’s not important, believe me,” the Leicester manager said. “I hope to be there in good condition, that is important. The name is not important. It will be another fairytale, win or lose it’s not important.”
Ranieri was full of praise for his players, who are guaranteed top spot in Group G after Porto could only draw with Copenhagen. “It’s unbelievable. Top of the group, very happy, very proud for my players, very happy for the chairman, for the fans, for everybody. Another journey to the knockout – unbelievable.”
Yet Ranieri was quick to stress the importance of addressing their form in the Premier League, where Leicester have lost six times. “Now our mind must go on the Premier League because I want to push my players to think about that,” he said. “Our job is done [in the Champions League]. I don’t know which team we play, it will be a fantastic team, and we are very happy. But now we have to go back.
“In the Premier League we are very close to the relegation zone and we must play at the same level as the Champions League because when we want to do something, we achieve something. We must concentrate on the Premier League now.”
The bad news for Ranieri is that it looks increasingly likely his team will be without Danny Drinkwater for their next three matches, with the England midfielder set to be charged with violent conduct after appearing to elbow Watford’s Valon Behrami during the 2-1 defeat at Vicarage Road on Saturday.
The FA has been examining footage of the incident, which took place in the 67th minute and went unpunished at the time. If Drinkwater is charged and banned he will miss the Premier League matches against Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Manchester City.
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