Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has bribed his players with the promise of pizza, if they manage to keep a clean sheet against Stoke on Saturday.
The Italian manager thinks he has found the recipe to keep Leicester’s impressive early-season form going, saying: “I told them, if you keep a clean sheet, I’ll buy pizza for everybody. I think they’re waiting for me to offer a hot dog too!”
Ranieri’s team have conceded the first goal in each of their last three Barclays Premier League fixtures, but have come back every time to maintain their unbeaten start to the season – none more dramatically than last weekend’s 3-2 victory againstAston Villa.
The Foxes had looked like losing after wonderful curling efforts from Jack Grealish – his first goal for Villa – and Carles Gil put the visitors in the driving seat.
But goals from Ritchie De Laet, whose effort was given with the aid of goal-line technology, Jamie Vardy and substitute Nathan Dyer, who bravely headed a 89th-minute winner on his debut, saw Leicester snatch three points and climb up to second place in the table.
“Coming back from behind might be exciting, but it is not good. Three times we go down, that is not good,” said Ranieri, whose team travel to Stoke on Saturday.
“I would prefer to get in front and stay there than have to keep giving ourselves a problem. That is clear.
“But of course my knowledge is important. It is also important to say, ‘Hey, be careful – three times down is not so good’.
“We have to be careful. My players have been incredible but I have warned them they can’t continue to give teams a start because one day you will get punished.
“There is a very good spirit. They are characters. But I’m very curious – I want to see what they are like when something goes wrong.
“Every man can go to the ground, but I want to see when they pick themselves up. That is my focus.”
In contrast to Leicester’s unbeaten start, Stoke are still looking for their first win of the season, losing three of their opening five games.
Despite that, Ranieri knows it will be a stiff test for his side at the Britannia Stadium.
“I am surprised because Stoke have very good quality players,” he said.
“I don’t know if it’s the best moment to play Stoke. The future you don’t know.
“Sooner or later they will start to play, but I hope after Saturday.
“It is important for us to go there very concentrated and (keep) the feet on the ground.
“The defeat is (around) the corner. You have to be very focused, concentrated and motivated.”
Meanwhile, Dyer has been passed fit to be part of the Leicester squad that travels to the Potteries.
The winger, on loan from Swansea, has received the all-clear from the club’s medical staff after suffering a heavy blow to the head in a collision with Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan as he headed the winning goal on his first Foxes appearance from the bench.
“Nathan Dyer is okay and everyone is fine to play on Saturday,” Ranieri said. “At the moment there are no injuries.”