LONDON (Reuters) – Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri knows it will be special when he returns to his old club Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday but said the game had come too soon for his new side.
The Italian managed at Stamford Bridge from 2000 to 2004 and steered Chelsea to the Champions League semi-finals but although he did not win a trophy he remains a popular figure at the club.
He took charge of Fulham this month after Serb Slavisa Jokanovic was sacked with the team bottom of the standings. Ranieri’s first match, a 3-2 home win over Southampton last weekend, ended a run of 10 games without a victory.
Despite Chelsea losing for the first time this season at Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, Ranieri did not feel his side were quite ready to get something from his old stomping ground.
“It’s special because when I meet my former teams, it’s always something special,” he told a news conference on Friday.
“(But) for me, playing against Chelsea arrives too soon, because when you play against them you must be attentive. But we are working hard. I hope we can do a good derby.”
Fulham still prop up the table but are now level with Cardiff City and Southampton on eight points from 13 matches and only one point away from the safety zone.
It is their goal difference of minus 19 that has kept them in the basement spot with 33 goals conceded already this season.
Ranieri said he expected his whole team to defend and stop Fulham becoming the most porous team in a 38-game league season, the record held by Derby County who conceded 89 in 2007-08.
“In football, there are two things – when you have the ball and when you lose it. The first striker is the first keeper, the first defender in my opinion is the striker, everybody has to attack and everybody has to defend,” he said.
“When I say I have to work in a defensive way I don’t tell just the full backs, I tell everybody because everybody must work and help the others, the midfielders to the defensive line, the defensive line to the keeper.”
(Reporting by Christian Radnedge; Editing by Ken Ferris)