(Reuters) - Danny Drinkwater and Riyad Mahrez are likely to start for Leicester City against West Ham United in Saturday’s Premier League clash, manager Claudio Ranieri has indicated.
The Italian is turning to two of last season’s most influential figures in a bid to arrest the champions’ alarming slide towards the relegation zone.
Drinkwater made his first league appearance in more than a month as a second-half substitute in Monday’s 2-0 home defeat by Everton, a result that dropped Leicester to 16th place, three points above the bottom three.
“Drinkwater could be (in the starting line-up) because he played 45 minutes (against Everton),” Ranieri told a news conference on Thursday.
“He works well and I think he could start from the beginning.”
Mahrez was dropped to the bench against Everton because Ranieri said he felt the Algerian winger needed a rest.
But the manager is now looking for a creative spark to prevent a third straight game without a win.
“I watched him during the training session last week and he was a little tired. He worked so hard, 10 men verses 11 at Stoke,” the manager added.
”I decided to give him a little rest and I want to see his reaction. Now he feels better. I am waiting for a very good reaction.
“I am the manager, I have to chose the right moment to give him a rest. Players are not a machine you can put a coin in and they work.”
Jamie Vardy was sent off in the 2-2 draw with Stoke and is again suspended against a West Ham side whose three successive victories have pushed them up to 11th.
Not for the first time this season, Ranieri called on his players for a reaction, urging them to play without fear and get the crucial three points.
“We are unhappy, no one is happy. The chairman, me, the sporting director, the staff, the players, we have to react. As soon as possible,” he said.
”We are the Foxes and the Foxes are fearless. We know very well we are in the battle and we are ready to fight.
“We want to reach 20 points, we have to win against West Ham. We need points and we will fight. In life there are good moments and bad moments. I want to see how my players react to the bad moments.”
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru