Leicester City chief Claudio Ranieri tinkers to thwart Norwich City

Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri was wary of the threat from Alex Neil's Norwich City. Picture

Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri was wary of the threat from Alex Neil's Norwich City. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Claudio Ranieri revealed Riyad Mahrez's surprise omission from the Leicester City line-up was a backhanded compliment to Norwich City.

The Italian opted not the use the exciting Algerian international, who was earning rave reviews for his five goals in the early weeks of the Premier League, to protect his flanks from Norwich raiding parties.

'We knew very well how Norwich would play,' said Ranieri. 'They push a lot on the flanks and make a lot of deliveries into the box.

'We wanted to start with a solid team and then, during the match, I could put Riyad on the field. But the match was different because we were winning.

'When you play against Norwich, they play good football and can score goals, so it was important for us to be calm, to play well and to be in a good position late in the game. Christian Fuchs and Danny Simpson played very well. I put Mahrez on the bench because I knew they were pushing during the match on the flank with the full backs and the wingers, left and right.

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'For that reason I thought I'd use Riyad in the second half to try to win the match if it was possible or if we were drawing.'

Leicester moved back into the upper reaches of the table with a second away league win, but Ranieri reiterated survival is his number one target.

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'We have 15 points. We want 25 more, then we will see what we can do,' he said. 'It was a very good answer after the defeat against Arsenal.

'It was a very good match against a good team that were well organised and play good football, but we were very determined to win the match. We suffered a lot in the second half but it was a battle and we won.

'At half-time, I spoke with the players about how important it was to start the second half well because they will put us under pressure. We created a lot of great chances to score, we scored twice and we had one disallowed. Then they scored and there was a big battle in English spirit and I love this kind of spirit.

'Every match in England is never finished. You have to fight to the 96th minute. We were very solid at the back. We didn't get the clean sheet, but it is okay – when we win, I am very happy.'

Ranieri expects in-form striker Jamie Vardy to join up with England for their Euro 2016 qualifiers after treatment on a knee injury jarred in the closing stages of a game where he notched his seventh league goal of the season.

'When I saw Vardy on the ground I thought it was a bad injury because Jamie never stays down,' he said. 'When he came close to our bench, the physio said it was his knee, but he was stable and he continued to play.

'He's in a great moment. Strikers live for these moments because everything he does is gold. But it's not just his goals that are important, it's his pressing with Shinji (Okazaki). This kind of pressing recharges their team-mates behind them and that's important.'

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