Belfast Telegraph

Leicester winger Riyad Mahrez fit to face Newcastle

Winger Riyad Mahrez has given Leicester an injury boost ahead of their crucial game against Newcastle on Monday.

The Algeria international came off after scoring the winner in the Foxes' 1-0 victory at Watford on Saturday which moved them five points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

There were fears he had suffered a hamstring injury but boss Claudio Ranieri has confirmed his 16-goal star has trained this week and is fit to face Newcastle.

Ranieri said: "He is good, everybody is in a good condition. There are no problems (with Mahrez). It was a little cramp."

During their last 38 games, including the final nine games of last season - where they won seven to avoid relegation - Leicester have earned 82 points, 11 more than any other top flight team in the same period.

They have lost just three times this season ahead of the Magpies' visit but Ranieri dismissed any praise to focus on their opponents.

He said: "Now we are not thinking about how many points, we are thinking about Newcastle. It's a difficult match, they are in a dangerous position. I can't believe why, they spent more than £100million and I think it will be another difficult match. They are fighting to survive.

"I am very surprised (they are struggling), they have a good manager, good players and fantastic fans."

And, despite being five points clear of second-placed Tottenham, Ranieri continued to play down the Foxes' title chances.

He added: "No, we are the same, the favourites are the others. It (the lead) doesn't matter, we have to fight and at the end we can say 'we achieved this', 'we are in the Europa League, fantastic, we are in the Champions League, amazing'.

Meanwhile, long-term injury victim Matty James is close to a recovery after returning to full training following a knee injury he suffered last year.

The club are also in contract talks with Ranieri's assistants Craig Shakespeare and Steve Walsh.

Head of recruitment Walsh has been credited with helping identify and sign N'Golo Kante, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.

Their deals expire next year and Ranieri insisted the duo must stay at the King Power Stadium.

"It is very important to keep them," he said. "I ask them to sign the same as my contract (until 2018) because I have a very good relationship with all my staff.

"I would prefer it everybody is happy with me, their contract, everything.

"Yes, the sooner they can sign, the happier they are and the sooner we can continue to grow up."

But the Italian is not worried about his own deal, despite leading the Foxes to the top of the table after joining last summer.

"I have two years of contract here," he said. "That's okay. But now is not the right moment to speak about my contract.

"I want only want to speak about Newcastle now."


From Belfast Telegraph