Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has little doubt Chelsea will recover their Premier League form and challenge to finish near the top of the table come the end of the season.
The reigning champions suffered their eighth defeat of the league campaign at home to AFC Bournemouth last Saturday to leave them 17 points behind leaders Leicester ahead of the meeting between the sides at the King Power Stadium on Monday.
But Ranieri, who was succeeded by Jose Mourinho as Chelsea boss in 2004, feels the Blues’ performance in their 2-0 Champions League win over Porto on Wednesday proves they should still command plenty of respect.
“Chelsea for me means a lot. They were my first team here and for me I was very proud to be their manager,” he said.
“Chelsea are Chelsea, Mourinho is Mourinho and I’m sure they will be near the top at the end of the season.
“I respect Chelsea a lot. I watched last night [against Porto]. They played very well and moved it [the ball] quickly. They are the champions.”
Jamie Vardy’s record-breaking run of scoring in 11 consecutive league games has made the headlines for Leicester in recent weeks, but Ranieri is also happy to see the form of Riyad Mahrez being discussed following his hat-trick in the 3-0 win over Swansea City last week.
“I’m very happy. Until now I’m always asked about Vardy, now we talk about Mahrez,” he said.
“Mahrez is a good player and he’s still improving. His potential is very, very high.
“It’s not important who scores, it’s important that the team scores and that the team plays well.”