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Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri: Foxes will be fan-tastic for Kante

Leicester City v Chelsea, EFL Cup Round Three: King Power Stadium, tonight, 7.45pm

By Nick Mashiter

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri hopes N'Golo Kante will get a hero's welcome when he makes his first return to the Foxes.

The midfielder quit the champions for Chelsea in a £32million deal in the summer after helping them win the Premier League last season.

He was the only key member of the title-winning team to leave the King Power Stadium following their shock success as Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Kasper Schmeichel signed new contracts.

Kante returns with Chelsea in the third round of the EFL Cup tonight and Ranieri is looking forward to their reunion.

"I am very happy and I will give to him a very warm welcome back and I am sure also our fans they must appreciate what he did last season and give him a warm welcome," he said.

"I will be very happy if our fans clap him at the beginning and afterwards he is an enemy.

"They must understand that when arrives a big team it is difficult to say no. For this reason I say thank you to Jamie Vardy and his family, and to Riyad when they decided to stay here. For us it was important to maintain everybody.

"He was very important for us and I think he was even more important for us than at Chelsea because Chelsea have so many big players."

Ranieri faces the Blues having been boss at Stamford Bridge between 2000 and 2004, and managed against current chief Antonio Conte while the pair were in Italy.

He added: "He (Conte) is a winner, but of course he needs time. The reality here is different than in Italy and his job is bigger now. But he is right and I think he can lift some trophies.

"You need to understand the league and your players.

"The players must understand him and how he manages and how he changes, what he wants. I watch a good Chelsea so far."

He also revealed that he failed in an attempt to sign Conte at Fiorentina.

The Foxes chief wanted to bring the now Chelsea boss to the Stadio Artemio Franchi when Conte was playing for Juventus. It was part of a double raid as he targeted Angelo di Livio, who eventually joined Fiorentina in 1999, two years after Ranieri had left the club.

Ranieri admitted he is a big fan of the 47-year-old.

He said: "I have known him a long time. When I was Fiorentina manager he played for Juventus and I wanted to bring him and Di Livio in but it wasn't possible.

"I then watched him when he was manager at Siena and together we were at national teams with Greece and Italy.

"We weren't too close (to signing Conte) but it wasn't possible. I tried and when you are in the market you try to find the right players and, for me, him and Di Livio were very good players for us but it wasn't possible."

Meanwhile, Eden Hazard is confident Conte will inspire Chelsea to recover from their first defeat of the season at Liverpool on Friday.

Hazard appears rejuvenated under the Italian, and after a disappointing 2015-16 season he believes Conte's communication and motivation skills are key.

"He's a top guy, he tries to speak a lot with the players, to talk a lot, and we are pleased to work with him," the 25-year-old said.

"He has the passion to do his job. He gives everything on the bench and we try to give everything on the pitch," he added.

"He's a top manager, he's a top man."

Conte's arrival has also led to a resurgence in the form of Diego Costa and was followed by the summer recruitment of David Luiz and Michy Batshuayi, among others.

Ankle and anterior cruciate ligament injuries to John Terry and Kurt Zouma mean Luiz is likely to retain his place after making his first appearance back at the club against Liverpool.

Belfast Telegraph


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