Leicester City: Now or never for Premier League title, says Claudio Ranieri
Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri believes it is "now or never" for the Foxes to win the Premier League title.
The league leaders have enjoyed a remarkable campaign and are five points clear of Tottenham with four games remaining. They host Swansea on Sunday.
They are already guaranteed a top-three finish and Champions League football next season, and Ranieri say his focus is now on winning the title.
"It is this year or never more," he told BBC sports editor Dan Roan.
"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 that now is the right moment to push."
It is the first time Ranieri has admitted Leicester could win the title, having deflected questions on the subject since Christmas.
Sir Clive Woodward, who coached the England rugby team to their only World Cup victory in 2003, said on Twitter that he felt Ranieri had made a "big error" in talking about the title.
"Never speak about anything but your next game, next game is all that you ever talk about, players will be listening," he tweeted.
In a wide-ranging interview, Ranieri added:
- He expects Tottenham to win all four of their remaining games.
- He is not worried about losing players and wants only 'happy' players with him.
- Says there is no secret to his side's success this season.
- Believes they can cope without suspended striker Jamie Vardy.
- Says friendship between the players has been key.
- Wants Robert de Niro to play him in a film about Leicester's season.
'No pressure, only enjoyment'
Leicester's closest challengers Tottenham have won their past two games, beating Manchester United 3-0 and then winning 4-0 at Stoke.
It has enabled them to close the gap on Ranieri's side after they dropped points against West Ham last weekend, drawing 2-2.
Ranieri, though, insisted he and his players were not feeling the pressure.
He said: "When I managed in Italy, you can't believe the kind of pressure you have there. It's not pressure here. I enjoy here."
'A special season'
Leicester winning the title ahead of some of the more traditional challengers has been compared to Nottingham Forest's achievements in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Under Brian Clough, Forest won the then First Division title in 1978 in what was their first season in the top flight, before lifting successive European Cups.
What Leicester have achieved so far has been described as a football miracle, but former Chelsea boss Ranieri said: "It's not a miracle. It is a strange moment.
"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."
Doing it for the fans
As well as England, Ranieri has previously managed in Italy, Spain and France but has never won a domestic top-flight title.
However, the 64-year-old says he is not concerned with what a title win will mean for him personally.
"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."
'We can cope without Vardy'
Leicester will be without 22-goal striker Jamie Vardy for their game against Swansea on Sunday as he serves a one-match suspension after accepting a Football Association charge of improper conduct.
The 29-year-old had confronted referee Jon Moss after being sent off in Sunday's 2-2 draw with West Ham.
Ranieri added: "Without him I don't have another Vardy, but without him I believe we can do something special."
'Why leave? Here the players are kings'
Leicester's form this season has been rewarded with four of their players - Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, N'Golo Kante and Wes Morgan - being named in the PFA Team of the Year.
Asked whether he was worried that some of his star players could be tempted to move elsewhere in the summer, Ranieri added: "No, I believe they want to follow us.
"They want to play in the Champions League next season. Here they are the king, if they go to another side they don't know what could happen.
"If somebody is not happy with us because another good team want them, then I don't worry. I prefer happy people with me."
What's the winning formula?
Ranieri believes the close bond the players share has been key to the club's success so far this season.
"There's no secret," he said. "There are circumstances. This team has had fantastic circumstances throughout all the season. The big teams, no, they had some fantastic matches and then slowed down.
"When I was a player [at Catanzaro] they were a team and it was unique. We were together for 14 years with eight or nine of my team-mates. We were very friendly and Leicester are the same.
"The players are friends, they play for each other and help each other - that is one of our keys."
'You talkin' to me?'
Leicester's exploits, and that of their top-scorer, could soon be heading to Hollywood with Jamie Vardy: The Movie reportedly set to be made.
Asked who would play him, Ranieri said: "Somebody told me maybe Robert de Niro. Why not? He is a great actor."