Okazaki is Leicester’s dilly ding, dilly dong – Ranieri

Joe Williams

Shinji Okazaki: Scored in the Foxes' victory over Palace

Shinji Okazaki is the player who gives Leicester a wake-up call and gets the rest of the team going, according to Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri.

Leicester’s return to winning ways in the Premier League last weekend, a first victory in four outings, coincided with the Japan international being restored to the side for his first start since September 10.

He marked his recall by scoring the second of Leicester’s goals in the 3-1 home success against Crystal Palace.

While Okazaki may not be prolific in front of goal – it was the 30-year-old’s first league goal of the season – his hard work does not go unnoticed by Ranieri.

Okazaki covered 11.66 kilometres during the match against Palace, which is more than a kilometre further than fellow forwards Jamie Vardy and Islam Slimani in any game this campaign.

“He is a hard worker – sometimes he’s not so close to goal but when the ball is around the box Shinji is always there,” said Ranieri.

“He is important for team because he presses a lot – he is our dilly ding, dilly dong. He wakes up our players – he has the bell!”

Okazaki has given Ranieri a welcome selection dilemma ahead of Saturday’s trip to Tottenham, with Vardy vying for a recall after being dropped to the bench against Palace – a performance which Ranieri described as Leicester’s best of the season so far.

The Italian admits he will have one eye on next week’s Champions League clash in Copenhagen when he selects his team at White Hart Lane.

“Against Crystal Palace we went back to our old philosophy, everybody closed, everybody with the same discipline and I recognised them again,” said Ranieri.

“It’s important we don’t go back and stay this way. But everything can affect you – it’s normal. They are humans, not machines.

“I can change something, I think about both games. Let me think. It’s my problem but a good problem for me. I have changed before – wait for Saturday and you will see.”

Victory in Copenhagen will guarantee Leicester’s passage through to the knockout stages of the Champions League in their maiden campaign in Europe’s premier club competition.

“It is a priority,” said Ranieri. “But every match is important, we want to win every game.”