LEICESTER, United Kingdom: Claudio Ranieri has promised to rethink the way he juggles the demands of competing in the Premier League and Champions League after Leicester were held to a lethargic 0-0 draw by Southampton.
Ranieri’s side have been unable to reproduce the relentless work-rate that carried them to their fairytale title triumph last season and they lie 10 points behind leaders Manchester City following Sunday’s (Monday in Manila) stalemate at the King Power Stadium.
Leicester had been perky enough during their midweek Champions League success against Porto, but five days later they were much less vibrant as Southampton dominated for long periods and should have taken all three points.
Ranieri has time to work on a solution during the international break and he conceded it might be wise to rest more players following European matches after making only one change against the Saints at the end of a frantic period of seven matches in 22 days.
“I recognize they played better than us and deserved to win,” Ranieri said. (Kasper) Schmeichel made two or three great saves and they hit the post.
“For us it is ok, one point and a clean-sheet. Now I have to think about when we play every three days.
“Maybe it was much better to give some rest to some players. I changed just one player. It is not enough.
“It could be the schedule. Maybe we ran more than other matches because it was difficult to stop them.”
After many of Ranieri’s squad head off to play for their countries over the next two weeks, the Italian will face an immediate test of his rotation plan when Leicester return to action.
They have a busy week featuring a trip to Chelsea, a European clash with Copenhagen and finishing at home to Crystal Palace.
“How many players stay with me now, six? seven? The rest go for international matches,” Ranieri said.
“Then they come back a few days before Chelsea and we have a Champions League game after that. I have to think hard.”
As well as dealing with the fatigue from Leicester’s hectic schedule, Ranieri also needs to work on his tactics as opponents are finally growing wise to his team’s counter-attacking style.
Southampton easily subdued Leicester forwards Jamie Vardy and Islam Slimani and had no problems taking control in midfield either.
“The other teams are very worried with our counter-attack and try to stop us every time. We have to find the solution,” Ranieri added.
After a slow start under new French coach Claude Puel, Southampton are now unbeaten in their last six matches in all competitions.
Even more impressive is their record of six clean-sheets during that run, but it was Southampton’s failure to take a host of chances that would have killed off Leicester that Puel was chewing on as he headed back to the south-coast.
“It’s always difficult to play against Leicester with their pressing and long balls,” Puel said.
“We did a very good game. We made chances. It’s a shame that we didn’t score.
“It’s easy to see Charlie (Austin) had some chances. He tried to find the right solution. For this moment I have the feeling we lost two points.
“If we had finished our chances we would have taken the three points, but it is important to stay with the good feeling from this performance.”