UNITED KINGDOM, January 14- Claudio Ranieri believes Leicester’s title rivals are yet to take their challenge seriously.
The Foxes are second, behind leaders Arsenal on goal difference, having emerged as shock contenders for the Premier League crown.
Wednesday’s 1-0 win at Tottenham further proved their credentials and they go to bottom side Aston Villa on Saturday, live on Sky Sports 1. Leicester are three points ahead of Manchester City and seven clear of Spurs, but Ranieri feels their chances are still being dismissed.
“It’s easy to say ‘yes, Leicester can fight for the title’ but of course I think they don’t believe,” said the 64-year-old, who has been nominated for December’s Manager of the Month award.
“Everybody says ‘sooner or later they will slow down’. They say Arsenal, Tottenham, United, City, Chelsea, who are used to fighting for the title, say ‘Leicester are there, but can they arrive at the end and fight?’
“Nobody knows and we don’t have the pedigree to say ‘yes, Leicester is there’ so far. But we want to have them say ‘yes, now, Leicester are fighting for the top four’.
“I’m not happy or unhappy. I don’t think about the other teams. I think only about Leicester. That is my focus.”
Ranieri has played down Leicester’s chances of the title in the past but said his squad are starting to believe they can stun the league.
Jamie Vardy – who has fully recovered from a groin operation – is the division’s joint top scorer with 15, while Riyad Mahrez has netted 14 times with the duo leading the Foxes’ charge.
“I think slowly, slowly they believe they can do something special. It’s not easy of course, but it is important to try. Sometimes you need a bit of luck,” Ranieri added.
“When we drew against United and City my players weren’t happy. They were as if we had lost the match. That was fantastic because they wanted to win.
“Now it’s fantastic and now our fans are dreaming. They must continue to dream and we must continue to work hard.”