Leicester: Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has challenged his star striker Jamie Vardy to prove his curious pre-match drinking ritual still works by ending his goal drought against Southampton on Sunday.
Vardy revealed in his new autobiography that he superstitiously drank a glass of port out of a Lucozade bottle the night before every match last season.
The England international striker's unusual habit worked a treat as he left opposing defenders punch drunk en route to scoring 24 goals in Leicester's incredible Premier League title triumph.
But Vardy, 29, who also said he consumes three cans of Red Bull and two espressos on the day of a game to boost his energy, has only three goals this term and has gone five matches without scoring.
Keen to keep him on his toes, Ranieri questioned if the ritual had lost its magic following Vardy's latest blank, in Leicester's 1-0 Champions League win over Porto on Tuesday.
"He took it before Porto? Why didn't he score?!" Ranieri said. "A nutritionist gives them something to eat but after they go home they are professional and can eat and drink what they want. For me it's important to watch on the pitch, when they play and train well I am happy. Sometimes the players do something just because, 'Ah, I scored a goal and I want to continue'. It's okay. It's the doctor who has to investigate and say the port is good or not good."
"Jamie is doing a fantastic career, from non-league to national team. I don't believe port can do something. It is a glass of red wine. It is okay. For me it is only superstition, nothing more," Ranieri said.
With Vardy not being so prolific this season and Leicester still adjusting to their new status as a prize scalp for opposing teams, the champions have made an inconsistent start to the season.
Ranieri is still trying to find the right blend between players that won the title and his pre-season signings. Nampalys Mendy, one of the new arrivals, could feature on Sunday after recovering from an ankle injury. The French midfielder, who joined from Nice, was out for over a month, but has returned to training and may replace Daniel Amartey. Right-back Danny Simpson could return after being dropped for the Porto clash.
Southampton manager Claude Puel hopes his decision to rest several key players will pay off at the end of a gruelling schedule that sent his team to London, Israel and Leicester in the space of seven days. After beating West Ham 3-0 on Sunday to secure successive Premier League wins, Puel's side drew 0-0 at Hapoel Be'er Sheva in the Europa League on Thursday.
With little time to recover between fixtures, Puel left out in-form Charlie Austin, Ryan Bertrand, Steven Davis and captain Jose Fonte in Israel. "It was important to take some players to keep fresh for a game in two days," said Puel, whose assistant Eric Black has denied any wrongdoing after featuring in the Daily Telegraph's investigation into corruption in football this week.
"Israel is very hard, it's a long journey, a difficult opponent. All my players have done well because it's not easy at this level. It's a good experience for the future to win away at West Ham and take one point with the difficulties here with all this travel, the journey," he said.
First Published On : Oct 1, 2016 17:13 IST