Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has finally admitted his side are targeting Europe.
The Italian again stopped short of talking about their title chances, but conceded they want European football next season.
Second-placed Tottenham Hotspur won 2-0 at Aston Villa on Sunday to close the gap on Leicester to two points, but the Premier League leaders can restore their five-point cushion when they host Newcastle on Monday.
Ranieri’s men have not dropped out of the top four since October and, in a change of policy, the coach has openly spoken about his European ambitions for the first time.
He said: “Now we are fighting to achieve the Europa League. You imagine Leicester achieve the Europa League and next season we stay in the Europa League? Unbelievable. That is our goal. When we achieve this, I look how many matches are left.
“Maybe we can achieve the Champions League – wow, amazing. Europa League is the next little step.
“Little targets is the match: Newcastle and after Crystal Palace – that is our step.
“Now I remember Newcastle and Crystal Palace, and after that we have a break and I forget.”
But despite now being odds-on favourites to win the league, Ranieri will only believe they can when Leicester cannot be caught.
“When we have a five-point lead with less than one match and when the mathematics say yes, that is it,” he said.
“Believe me, we have won our title by saving the team.”
Newcastle arrive with Rafa Benitez in charge for the first time after he replaced the sacked Steve McClaren on Friday, and Ranieri has warned his players to expect a fight.
“My focus is on Newcastle, my study is on Newcastle, my obsession is Newcastle,” he said.
“When we played there, there were so many good players. Sometimes they play well and sometimes (they are) down. I can’t understand but I am sure on Monday night it will be a battle and it is important we understand this.”
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