Claudio Ranieri hopes his Leicester City side can continue to enjoy playing without pressure as they look to stay top of the Premier League.
Leicester extended their lead at the summit to five points over the weekend with a 3-1 win at Manchester City which provided the biggest evidence yet that they can maintain their unlikely title challenge this season.
Ranieri, however, continues to do all he can to keep the pressure off his players and says, with survival long secured, he does not care about results so long as performances are good.
“Of course the bigger clubs are nervous but it doesn’t matter to me, it’s not my problem,” said Ranieri. “For Leicester the pressure was at the beginning of the season when we started out because our goal was to maintain our position in the Premier League, but now the pressure is on the other teams who have spent a lot of money to win the Premier League, the Champions League.
“We are enjoying it. We have to play like we have this spirit – then the result is not important. If our performance is good I am very happy.
“Surviving relegation last season helps because that was a big, big pressure for them. Now they can remember the pressure they faced last season, they can smell how it was and stay calm this season. I don’t know exactly if the pressure was bigger last season, but I would think, yes – if you don’t survive and go down it’s difficult to come back: that is helping the spirit now.
“I am enjoying it and also my players must enjoy it – until Tuesday anyway, then focus [on Arsenal]. We want them to train the same as they play.
“It’s important for us to concentrate and keep our feet on the ground. That’s important because it’s the first time in their lives that they are doing something special. So it’s important not to look down or behind you.
“Like a climber, you need to look up. If you look down, you go: ‘Oh! My God, look where we are!'”
Kasper Schmeichel echoed the thoughts of his manager, adding: “We have got a squad that has been together for a while and been through some highs and lows and those times bond you together.
“So yeah, we all get along well and that shows on the pitch. A lot of us have played in the lower leagues and we are in the Premier League now. There’s no reason not to enjoy it.”
Schmeichel’s guard did drop slightly, however, when he revealed his disappointment at Sergio Aguero scoring a consolation, providing an insight into the drive and determination in Leicester’s dressing room.
“There’s joy at the win, but disappointment too that we have conceded – even if it was offside,” Schmeichel said. “That’s annoying that the linesman hasn’t seen that.
“Of course we are disappointed with that – and shows we want more because that would have been our sixth out of seven clean sheets in the league. We are disappointed by that, but we will enjoy this win.”
On Leicester’s title challenge, Schmeichel said: “Of course we are good enough to be up there [leading], we are confident in every game we play and that’s been the same all season. We take one game at a time and that’s not going to change.
“We don’t need to show anything or prove anything. It’s about collecting points at the moment and seeing where that takes us. We enjoy this victory and [then] we start looking forward to Arsenal. Momentum is always important in football, but we are playing well.
“We are not getting ahead of ourselves, we know there’s a long way to go and we will keep our feet on the ground.
“The title is a possibility in the long run, but we are not thinking about that at all. We are not thinking further than the next game.”