Claudio Ranieri's Leicester have broken many pre-season expectations to sit atop the Premier League table at Christmas.

Claudio Ranieri hails Leicester team spirit

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Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri admits his players are making his job easier as the Foxes' unexpected title challenge continues to gather momentum.

A 3-2 win at Everton ensured they will be top of the Premier League at Christmas, 12 months on from being rock-bottom and in danger of being relegated.

The form of Jamie Vardy, the Premier League's top scorer with 15, and Riyad Mahrez, whose penalty double at Goodison Park took his tally to 13, have grabbed the headlines but it is the work ethic within the team which has been at the root of Leicester's success.

"I am very pleased. I have said my team have a very good spirit," said Ranieri.

"The players are friendly with each other and that is helping me in my job and helping us on the pitch.

"It (his job) is harder when you are down the table not at the top of the table.

"If some players relax they will go out of the team, that is my philosophy and they know that very well."

Leicester's rise to the top of the table has taken everyone by surprise and even a member of their backroom staff was heard in the Goodison tunnel afterwards admitting he was expecting to wake up and discover their situation had all been in his imagination.

Ranieri echoed those sentiments but has ruled out any talk of the title until at least April.

"It is a dream for everyone," he told BBC Sport.

"We have to concentrate now, clear our mind and think about Liverpool (on Boxing Day) as we come back in a few days.

"My target is 40 points (they have 38 already) and then after I want to speak with my players.

"It is important they understand they believe what they can achieve."

Mahrez is the epitome of a player currently living the dream as goals at Goodison drew him level with Romelu Lukaku, whose first-half equaliser was the eighth successive match in which he had scored, and he has scored more goals in his last three matches than he did in his previous two seasons with the club (when he managed just five).

The 24-year-old Algeria international, a ?400,000 signing from Le Havre, credited his team-mates for his recent success.

"I am very pleased. It is difficult to score but without my team-mates I would have never done that," he told Foxes Player.

"I am happy but I have to keep going in this way because we are in a very good way and we can do something good this year.

"It is very good for the team, the club. We make the city proud and that is a very good feeling for us so we have to carry on."

Mahrez opened the scoring with a penalty after Ramiro Funes Mori fouled Shinji Okazaki and then put his side ahead again from the spot after Lukaku's equaliser when Tim Howard tripped Vardy.

Okazaki made it 3-1 before Everton substitute Kevin Mirallas pulled one back in the 89th minute with his first league goal since April.

"It was a strange game," Howard told evertontv.

"We had a lot of possession and ended up getting two goals but they did the business and that is why they are where they are.

"Our performances have been pretty good but in order to get results 100 percent of the time everything is spot-on - if we do that we will get the results we need."

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Premier League
Romelu Lukaku
Tim Howard

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