Ranieri: It’s now or never

Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri believes the time has come for his side to stake their claim for the Premier League title.

The Foxes have shocked all and sundry with their fantastic performances this season, and currently find themselves five points clear of second-placed Tottenham at the top of the table with four games remaining.

But despite their sterling success, it will count for nothing if they can’t make it across the line in these last few matches.

They may already be guaranteed a top-three finish and Champions League football next season, but it’s clear what the real prize is.

And for the first time in the season, Ranieri is admitting it.

“It is this year or never more,” Ranieri said.

“We achieved the Champions League – a great achievement for everyone but now we try to win the title with all our strength, all our heart, our soul, everything.

“We need eight points and we are champions, and we try to do this. I said to my players, ‘now is the right moment to push to the end.'”

Making Leicester’s job more difficult over the closing stretch is that Jamie Vardy must still serve a one-match suspension after accepting a Football Association charge of improper conduct.

The star striker has been invaluable up front, scoring 22 goals, but he won’t be around for Sunday’s game against Swansea.

It’s a big blow, but Ranieri is confident his side can still get the job done.

“Without him I don’t have another Vardy, but without him I believe we can do something special.”

Ranieri has never won a title in the European top flight, despite having enjoyed a lengthy managerial career in Italy, Spain and France, but he says personal goals are not on his mind.

“I am glad when I see the people happy,” he said. “Football is a show. I believe if we win a match people go back home happy to their family. They go back to work happy – that is good for me.

“From the beginning, the fans came with me with their heart and started to sing some songs with me from the beginning. That was good.

“I know there were some people said ‘why Ranieri?’ but the fans were always behind me. They were happy.”

Some are calling what Leicester have done this season a miracle, but Ranieri doesn’t agree.

“It’s not a miracle. It is a strange moment,” he said.

“This is something in special circumstances and that is why I say ‘now or never more’, because next season will be different. The big teams will be stronger and better but of course we are doing something special this season.”