Chelsea v Leicester City preview: Claudio Ranieri returns to Stamford Bridge for season finale
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 15/05/16 3:54pm
Claudio Ranieri believes Leicester City's shock title triumph has restored his reputation in the minds of his critics ahead of an emotional return to former club Chelsea this Sunday.
The 64-year-old's appointment last July was heavily criticised by pundits and former players alike, but the Italian's side have since undergone an extraordinary transformation from relegation favourites to Premier League champions.
Sacked at Chelsea by owner Roman Abramovich in 2004 after failing to deliver the title and replaced by Jose Mourinho, Ranieri insisted he didn't covet acclaim from his former employers following his achievements with Leicester.
"Now I have won the Premier League, maybe everyone looks more positively at what I did," Ranieri said Friday ahead of Leicester's match against last season's Premier League champions.
"It changed not my mind but maybe other minds. I was so happy before because I know very well how I work and what I achieve before," he added.
"It is not important for to me to have credit, it was so important to bring another team (to the top), to show my passion to the team. I think life is full of opportunity, I think it is important to take the right opportunity."
Chelsea return thrills Ranieri
Chelsea return thrills Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri for Premier League showdown
Ranieri said his return to west London, where he spent four moderately successful years at Stamford Bridge, would be an "emotional" occasion.
As Chelsea drew 2-2 with Tottenham Hotspur just under a fortnight ago, a result which confirmed Leicester had won the first top-tier title in the Midlands club's 132-year history, home supporters were heard chanting the affable Ranieri's name throughout.
"It is amazing. I have been back there with Juventus in the Champions League but this time is different because this time it is with Leicester, another English club," said Ranieri.
"It is emotional, I hope my old fans are happy. When I came here I said 'the last match is at Chelsea... wow'. Now I come back as a champion. It's a good story."
Sunday will also be a farewell for Chelsea's interim boss Guus Hiddink
The Dutchman, who won the 2009 FA Cup during his first caretaker spell, brought stability, but still has only one home win in the Premier League.
The Blues drew 1-1 at Liverpool on Wednesday and are 10 points behind the Reds, who are one position above them in eighth.
Chelsea could finish 10th, if Stoke beat West Ham, but are unlikely to drop to 11th as Swansea, who play Manchester City, are three points behind and have a far inferior goal difference.
"In general I'm happy with this last half-year. I did it with a lot of joy," Hiddink said.
"For Chelsea standards it has been a season with deception. We managed to come back and we're happy to, but it's not enough for Chelsea standards.
"It's now relatively quiet in the club. We have to go on and be very competitive next season."
Diego Costa is out of the game with a hamstring injury and Hiddink is uncertain whether the Spain striker will recover to play at this summer's European Championships.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is available following illness, while a late decision will be made on Branislav Ivanovic, who missed the draw at Liverpool with a groin problem.
Meanwhile, Branislav Ivanovic may return from a groin injury, but Loic Remy and Kurt Zouma are out and John Terry is still suspended.
Leicester midfielder Danny Drinkwater is available after suspension, but Robert Huth is still serving his ban.
Jamie Vardy is expected to feature despite suffering cramp in his hamstrings last weekend.
Chelsea had won six straight league games against Leicester City before the Foxes' 2-1 win back in December.
Leicester have lost just two of their last 21 Premier League away games (W13 D6 L2).
The Foxes will end the season with the most points away from home in the Premier League this season (38 currently).
Chelsea have won just five Premier League games at home this season; against the bottom four and Arsenal.
The Blues have gone 11 Premier League matches at Stamford Bridge without a clean sheet.
Which Eden Hazard is playing? If he turns up like he has done in recent weeks then it will be a different game. He has been unbelievable recently, his performance against Liverpool was one of the best of the season, that was what he was doing most weeks last year when they won the title.
It will be an open and entertaining game, Leicester won't want to end their season on a losing note so there should be goals.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-2 (11/1 with Sky Bet)
Sky Bet have priced up Chelsea at 5/4 to beat Leicester, with the champions available at 2/1 to cap their remarkable season with a win over last year's victors, while the draw is available at 13/5.
Chelsea's Eden Hazzard has started to rediscover his best form heading into the Euros and Sky Sports pundit Matt Le Tissier is backing the Belgian to score the game's first goal and his prediction is priced at 7/1.