Leicester will drop me if I don't track back - Mahrez
LONDON (Reuters) - Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri would have no qualms about dropping Riyad Mahrez if the playmaker did not augment his sublime attacking skills with equally good defensive work, the Algerian said on Saturday.
Mahrez has become the first Premier League player to reach double figures in goals (14) and assists (10) as leaders Leicester, 5,000-1 outsiders at the start of the season, have staged an unlikely climb to the summit.
The former Le Havre winger knows, however, that he cannot sit on his laurels as the club try to win the top-flight title for the first time in their history.
"We are together, very compact," Mahrez told the BBC on the eve of Sunday's crunch match at third-placed Arsenal. "We think a lot about tactics.
"We do a lot of work defensively. Me, for example, if I don't work, I don't play.
"Two times this year he (Ranieri) put me on the bench because I didn't defend. I know if I don't work for the team he will drop me," said Mahrez, one of the bargains of the season after joining Leicester for 400,000 pounds ($580,320).
"Maybe I will start but if I don't work I will get taken off after 45 minutes."
Leicester have defied the pre-season odds of the bookmakers by surging five points clear with 13 matches left to play but Mahrez said there was no pressure on the squad to win the title after they narrowly avoided relegation last term.
"Now we get to test for first place," the 24-year-old explained. "The mentality is not the same, now we have nothing to lose.
"Last season it was very difficult with a lot of pressure. This year it is a positive pressure," said Mahrez who has formed a formidable partnership up front with England striker Jamie Vardy, the league's top scorer with 18 goals.
"If we finish first it is a bonus. If we finish three or four then it is okay.
"This is Leicester, it is not like Manchester City or Manchester United. They have an obligation to win things -- we don't have an obligation, it is just a dream," said Mahrez.
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(Writing by Tony Jimenez; Editing by Clare Fallon)