Ranieri confident of pulling ‘quality’ Fulham out of the mire

Fulham have lost nine times on their way to gaining just five points, but Claudio Ranieri believes there is still hope for a team bolstered by around €100 million in summer signings. (Reuters)
Updated 16 November 2018
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Ranieri confident of pulling ‘quality’ Fulham out of the mire

  • Ranieri, the manager behind Leicester’s incredible 2016 league title win, took over from sacked Slavisa Jokanovic on Wednesday
  • Claudio Ranieri: When I watched some matches I said this team has enough quality to be safe ... I need fighting spirit

LONDON: Claudio Ranieri said Friday that he was confident that he can drag rock bottom Fulham out of relegation danger after taking over at the newly-promoted Premier League side this week.
Ranieri, the manager behind Leicester’s incredible 2016 league title win, took over from sacked Slavisa Jokanovic on Wednesday after his Serb predecessor only managed one win in 12 matches in his debut season as a coach in England’s top flight.
Fulham have lost nine times on their way to gaining just five points, but Ranieri believes there is still hope for a team bolstered with around 100 million euros ($114 million) of summer signings after winning promotion from the Championship last season.
“When I watched some matches I said this team has enough quality to be safe ... I need fighting spirit,” said Ranieri to reporters on Friday.
The Italian wants to combine that talent — owner Shahid Khan splashed out on Jean Michael Seri Andre Schuedefensivesrrle, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Alfie Mawson — with the grit that saw his Leicester team overcome all the odds two years ago.
“Quality with fighting spirit we can do a good job. If there is only quality, without organization, defensive tactics, it’s difficult to help the players to maintain the clean sheet,” added Ranieri.
“Now for me it’s important to put in the brain of my players this philosophy. Play football, play well, but when you lose the ball I want to see you with an anchor, like pirates.”
Ranieri returns to England as a coach for the first time since being sacked by Leicester in February 2017 after a disastrous title defense.
He was in Leicester last weekend to pay his respects to Foxes owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and the four others killed in a helicopter crash last month.
However Ranieri played down suggestions of creating another miracle by winning the title with Fulham.
“Forget what happened yesterday, that was a bonus. A fairytale I forget,” the 67-year-old said of his and Leicester’s first ever league title win.
“Now it’s important, don’t think about the miracle. It’s important there will be a lot of battles and it’s important to be ready together.”
Asked whether he would reward his Fulham players with pizza when they kept clean sheets like he did at Leicester, Ranieri joked: “Pizza is not enough now. Better everybody to McDonald’s.”
He will face two of his former clubs in his first three games, with the December 2 trip to Chelsea followed by what will be an emotional return to Leicester three days later.
He said: “I think only of Southampton. In this moment it’s important. Don’t think about other things, Southampton, Southampton. And then after Southampton, Chelsea.”


Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

Updated 19 February 2019
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Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

  • It was Osaka's first match since she won the Australian Open — her second consecutive Grand Slam title.
  • World No. 67 Mladenovic lost for words after surprise win.

DUBAI: Naomi Osaka stumbled badly in her first match since winning the Australian Open as the world number one went down in a flurry of errors to exit the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.
Dubai-based Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic claimed a 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach the third round as Osaka made 25 unforced errors.
The rout, which featured seven breaks of the Osaka serve, took barely an hour, sending Mladenovic into a Wednesday contest with Carla Suarez Navarro.
“This is my home tournament, I live here,” world No. 67 Mladenovic said. “It’s great to get a win like this in front of a big crowd.
“Beating the number one is always special.”
The second set was riddled with seven consecutive breaks of serve before Mladenovic finished off the job with a winner to the empty court on match point.
Osaka stunned the tennis world last week by announcing her split from coach Sascha Bajin despite winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the US and Australian Opens.
She said earlier this week that she would not prioritize “success over happiness” when asked about the sacking, and she never looked like winning in Dubai as she also served five double faults.
Earlier on Tuesday, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova both won their opening matches, while Elina Svitolina made a strong start to her bid for a third straight title.
Kvitova, the 2013 winner, recovered from losing a first-set tiebreak to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4 and squeeze into the third round.
Halep, Dubai champion in 2015, saw off 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
The Romanian said she is still feeling the effects of her weekend final defeat in Doha by Elize Mertens.
“It was a good match because I won it. I tried to finish the points faster because I’m a little bit tired,” Halep said.
“She played well, the level was pretty good. At some points I really ran very well. I’m confident. I feel good on court even if I’m tired.”
A third former world number one also advanced as Angelique Kerber beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, said she was unfazed about the early midday start to her match.
“I don’t really care if I play the first match,” the Australian Open runner-up said. “Now I’m done, so I have a free afternoon.
“I’m not sure what I’m pleased with... maybe with my comeback at the end.”