Claudio Ranieri has warned that Leicester City will have to dig deep against Crystal Palace on Saturday if they are to extend their advantage at the top of the Premier League.
With Tottenham not playing until Sunday, Leicester could move eight points clear at the top of the table with victory at Selhurst Park as the most improbable of title triumphs moves into sight.
Palace have not won in 12 league games, a run that stretches back into last year, while Leicester have beaten Tottenham and Manchester City on their travels since the turn of the year and secured a 1-0 victory when the sides met at the King Power Stadium in October.
However, Ranieri – who only has doubts over Andy King’s fitness for the clash – expects FA Cup semi-finalists Palace to be another tough test for his high-flying Foxes.
“We don’t know what will happen in the next match,” the Italian told a news conference. “We just want to fight, not to think of the title. It will be a very tough match against Palace.
“In our last game with them I was so happy [to win] as they are a good team. I want us to enjoy and fight. If the result comes, then great. If not, it doesn’t matter. Carry on, let’s play.”
Leicester’s win over Palace earlier in the campaign came courtesy of a Jamie Vardy goal in the midst of the England striker’s 11-game Premier League record-breaking scoring run.
Palace bounced back from that defeat with four wins in their next seven, but things have spiralled out of control for Alan Pardew’s side, although their Cup run has kept spirits up.
However, their rotten run in the league leaves them eight points above the relegation zone, with Newcastle United and Sunderland – 19th and 17th in the table respectively – meeting at St James’ park on Sunday.
Five straight home defeats provide a shaky platform to build on as Leicester bring the Premier League’s best away record to Selhurst Park.
“The route is clear for them, they’re favourites,” said Pardew. “I take my hat off to them, they’ve been brilliant.
“In all the games they’ve won recently it’s been really tight and I expect it to be the same against us. We’ll be hoping for a result.
“We’ve had fantastic results in the cup. We’re in decent form, but not enough of it in the league. We’ve got a chance to turn it around now.”
Pardew is without strikers Connor Wickham (hip) and Marouane Chamakh (groin), while Mile Jedinak is a doubt with a back problem.