Leicester fairytale is over for Ranieri as he prepares for ‘must-win’ game
For Claudio Ranieri, the Leicester fairytale ended after the death of Foxes chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. But the memories of his incredible title win with the Foxes remain, as he prepares to face his former club for the first time tonight since he left, writes Giuseppe Muro.Ranieri admits it will be an emotional occasion at Craven Cottage when he is reunited with the team he led to Premier League success in 2015-16.
The Italian will always be the man most linked with that 5,000-1 achievement but tonight his focus will be on a win to move Fulham off the bottom of the table.
“We have spoken a lot about the fairytale,” said Ranieri. “Now the chairman, Vichai, is dead, the fairytale finished but the memories remain. I am very sad for what happened and we have to continue in our life.“It will be strange, a very emotional moment. It is not a match like others. Every time I face one of my former teams, there is always more emotion. Football for me is emotion.
“It was a fantastic emotion against Chelsea [whom he managed from September 2000 to June 2004] when I went back to Stamford Bridge and it will be a good emotion against Leicester. But we have to win.”
Ranieri, though, did leave Leicester under a cloud when he was sacked nine months after winning the title and it remains to be seen how much room there is for sentiment.N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez have since left the Foxes, while Jamie Vardy is expected to miss tonight’s game through injury and Wes Morgan is a doubt.
Ranieri, however, will be reunited with Kasper Schmeichel, Ben Chilwell and Marc Albrighton — who Ranieri says are “like sons” to him.
“It is good memories,” he said. “When you achieve something like that everybody grows closer together. Now I have other boys. That is normal. In every team I loved my players like a son.”
Ranieri is starting to see a difference in his squad at Fulham after three weeks in the job and he will be boosted tonight by the return from injury of Andre Schurrle. The midfielder missed the 2-0 defeat by Chelsea on Sunday with a hamstring injury but is fit again.Calum Chambers is likely to continue in midfield and Ranieri has revealed how Scott Parker convinced him to play the on-loan Arsenal star in a new role.
Parker stayed on as a coach after Ranieri replaced Slavisa Jokanovic and is working closely with the 67-year-old as part of his backroom team.
Ranieri said: “I spoke with Scott and he told me he could play there and I believe he is very good. He is intelligent, he links the play very well with the defensive line and the forwards and he has good movement. He is attentive.”
The main challenge for Ranieri at Fulham is tightening up a defence that has already conceded 35 goals this season and he has been doing a lot of video analysis with the squad to get them organised.Ranieri said: “I showed my players what we did well against Chelsea, we made some mistakes but it is important to watch on the TV what is wrong and improve during training.”