The Hornets’ final fixture of 2021 marked their first Premier League clash since December 10 due to a string of postponements, but Ranieri refused to blame a lack of preparation time for his side’s disappointing display.
Spanish defender Kiko Femenía was replaced by Imrân Louza before half-time as a precaution, and Ranieri hinted that his fitness will be assessed ahead of the home clash against Tottenham Hotspur on January 1.
He added: “I don’t want to make excuses for the defeat because this is a tough time with Covid for us as it is for the rest of the world, but it’s not easy to prepare a team in just one day.
“It’s not easy to get everyone on the same wavelength, but we know our biggest target is to stop conceding goals. That’s the problem, because I think that sooner or later we will start scoring goals.
“He [Femenía] felt something with his hamstring, so we took him off as a precaution. No-one else suffered an injury, which is positive.”