Claudio Ranieri admitted that he can understand why his Leicester City players might be distracted by their Champions League adventure this season but demanded greater concentration after a 3-0 humbling by Chelsea.
Slack marking from a corner allowed Diego Costa to break the deadlock after just seven minutes at Stamford Bridge, and Eden Hazard added a second before half-time before Victor Moses scored a late third to condemn last season’s Premier League champions to their fourth defeat in eight matches.
After the match Ranieri defended his decision to rest PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez and record signing Islam Slimani ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League home clash with Copenhagen, but admitted that the move might have had a detrimental impact on his team.
Asked if he would pick the same team again, Ranieri replied: “Yes, of course, the same decision because now we have a very tough game on Tuesday against Copenhagen. The Premier League is one year long. The Champions League is two months — [you’re] in or out.
“We want to go into the knockout stage of the Champions League or Europa League. To achieve this you need all your players fit and I prefer to preserve some players for Tuesday night.”
When it was put to him that resting Mahrez and Slimani might have affected his starters, Ranieri added: “Could be, but when you play against Chelsea… if it’s not an important match you have to close the pub [and go home].
“When you concede a goal from a corner it’s not the name, it’s not who plays, it’s the concentration. That’s one aspect of Leicester this season.
“In the first half the performance wasn’t good. We conceded two strange goals. The first, a corner, it’s not easy to leave Costa alone. The second goal was a ricochet.
“Then we had to react and we started the second half better. We put them under pressure and created a chance to open the match, but we were unlucky. Now we have to react immediately.
“You see a different Leicester, and now it’s important to understand why. [Maybe] we are thinking more about the Champions League.
“It’s normal when a team goes to play in the Champions League for the first time in its life, the concentration is very high. When you play in the Premier League it’s not the same. I can understand this but for this reason I want more concentration. Now I can only do one thing: work more and more.”