Belfast Telegraph

Claudio Ranieri ready to drop misfiring Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri admits he is ready to drop misfiring Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.

The pair spearheaded the Foxes' shock Premier League title win last season but have failed to recapture their form for the champions' title defence.

Vardy has failed to score in his last 15 club games - after netting 24 times last season - and reigning PFA Player of the Year Mahrez has just one assist and three league goals to his name this term.

Leicester go to Sunderland, two points above the bottom three, on Saturday having won just once in their last eight league matches and Ranieri is prepared to find a way to win without his two stars.

" Yes why not? I always try and put the best team on the pitch," said the Italian, who substituted both players in last Saturday's 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough. "When I think about how we are and how the opponent is I always think about the 90 minutes, not just the line-up.

"Wait until Saturday and you will see. I don't see a difference with Jamie this season and Jamie last season - only the goals. I think he's very close to scoring because it's not possible go to the end of season without scoring.

"He is a character who is not selfish. For me it's important the team scores a goal. Now I'd like Jamie to score a goal so we can say 'now it's your time'.

"I speak to Riyad and with everybody, with Riyad a little more - always with an arm round the shoulder, I kiss him! Maybe he needs more tough love.

"He is intelligent and he understands when my patience is finished or not. You will see (if it is). I am always the same here (in press conferences) - face to face I change."

Sunderland are bottom, five points behind Leicester, but have won two of their last three games yet Ranieri insisted the champions are not afraid of their situation.

He added: "I'm not looking at the table with fear. Foxes are fearless, so there's no fear."

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