Claudio Ranieri has called on his Leicester City players to build on their 4-2 victory over Manchester City with similarly impressive displays and results against Bournemouth and Stoke, describing the champions’ next two fixtures as “big battles”.
Leicester were back to their title-winning best against Pep Guardiola’s side on Saturday, racing to a 3-0 lead inside 20 minutes and going 4-0 up on 78 minutes on the back of a display of togetherness at the back, intensity in midfield and a killer edge on the counter attack. The victory was their first in the league since late October, moving them up to 14th.
They travel to the Vitality Stadium on Tuesday before heading to Stoke on Saturday, and for the manager the importance of those games is heightened by the fact his team are yet to win away from home this season.
“Bournemouth impressed me last season. They played so well and also at the beginning of this season they played well and got a lot of points,” the Italian said. “For us it’s very important now that we don’t lose there and don’t lose at Stoke because we want to keep this momentum in the right way.
“It is very important because if you lose the next two matches you forget this great performance [against City] and for us it’s fundamental to get points at Bournemouth and Stoke. There are two big battles to come but with these warriors I am very confident.”
Danny Simpson is suspended for Tuesday’s match after collecting a fifth booking of the season at the weekend. Danny Drinkwater is available, however, having completed a three-game ban.
Kasper Schmeichel could also return after over a month out with a broken hand, while Matty James is set to be part of the squad that travels to the south cost having made his first appearance in 19 months at the weekend following a knee injury.
One man who will definitely start for against Bournemouth is Jamie Vardy. The striker scored his first hat-trick for the club on Saturday, in the process ending a 16-match drought and suggesting he is well and truly back to his best. “He’s been the same old Jamie Vardy – he’s a character, he’s confident, he’s everything you see out there,” said the Leicester winger Marc Albrighton. “He’s been brilliant for us this season, even though he hasn’t been scoring – now he’s adding goals to his game again.
“That’s what happens with quality strikers, if they go on a drought they get one again and then go on and build on it. They gain confidence and before you know it they are scoring more and on another little run. I’m sure Jamie will take confidence from that hat-trick and he’ll be on fire now.”
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