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Title hopefuls are chasing smaller points target, insists Leicester boss Ranieri


Claudio Ranieri won the title last season with 81 points

Claudio Ranieri won the title last season with 81 points

Claudio Ranieri won the title last season with 81 points

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri thinks fewer points will be needed to win the Premier League this season, thus disagreeing with Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger's prediction.

The Foxes defied odds of 5,000-1 to become champions of England last season, amassing 81 points to do so and finishing 10 points in front of Wenger's team.

Wenger, a Premier League winner with Arsenal three times but not since 2004, said at his club's recent AGM that 86 points might be required to lift the trophy this season.

However, Ranieri believes that the competitive nature of the division this time round means a lower tally may be enough.

"This season I think there are so many teams fighting for the title and when there are so many teams maybe the total can go down," said the Italian.

"He's an expert on the Premier League, if Arsene says 86 he's right. I believe a little less but he's a boss. He has more experience, no? Twenty years. Me only five.

"There are so many teams who are fighting for the title this year there will be a very good battle until the end and we must fight."

Leicester's defence of their title has seen them take 11 points from their first nine matches, leaving them 12th in the table ahead of Saturday's trip to Tottenham.

The Foxes have struggled to reproduce last season's form, with the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez yet to hit their straps.

Both players were this week nominated for the Ballon d'Or, making the initial 30-man longlist, in recognition for their contribution during the 2015-16 campaign. Striker Vardy scored 24 goals while Mahrez netted 17 times and provided 11 assists from the wing.

Ranieri insists he will keep the Leicester stars grounded and will not be afraid to drop either should they allow the nomination to go to their heads and fail to perform.

"I will take them out (of) the squad," he said. " It is the first time Leicester has had players nominated, so I'm very proud of them.

"They deserved it and I hope they can go on again and make the shortlist.

"It is a great achievement for them. To be nominated for the golden ball is something special.

"But e very day they must show they are strong and ambitious. Every day is new - the past is the past. Every day they must prove themselves to be hungry.

"Every player wants to play - they are no different, but I'm a strong man and I'll decide. That is my philosophy. What we did, is the past. Every day is new - the future. If you don't run there is no future.

"I will take them out of the squad and that keeps them on the ground."

Ranieri has already benched both players this season, leaving Mahrez out at Chelsea and last weekend dropping Vardy against Crystal Palace.

Vardy, who has now gone nine games without a goal for Leicester, will be vying for a recall at White Hart Lane as Ranieri weighs up his team selection with next week's Champions League trip to Copenhagen in mind.

The Italian expects to have an unchanged group of players to choose from, with Nampalys Mendy, Ben Chilwell, Matty James and Yohan Benalouane still not ready to return from injury.