James Sharpe of the Leicester Mercury gives us the lowdown on Saturday’s opponents at the Amex Stadium.
Sit eighth in the table, were 14th in October with two wins from opening nine games – overall assessment of the season so far?
I think it’s been a good season so far – whether or not it’s a successful one or not now depends on if the side can finish seventh. They’ve got to two quarter-finals in both the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup and have lost to bigger teams in either extra time or on penalties.
It’s better than they did last year but there is a sense of disappointment they didn’t go further in the FA Cup because they’ve never won that and they thought they had a big chance to do that.
The target now has to be seventh, but if you look at where they’ve been previously at times this season, I think they’ve improved quite a lot.
Claude Puel had a season with Southampton – are Leicester City now seeing the benefits of his experience there?
I would say so – he’s tried to improve their style of play because he thought sides might have figured them out – he’s done that whilst keeping them high in the table at the same time.
If you look at Southampton now and their league position, hindsight is a great thing – Claude has said that the year at St Mary’s taught him a lot about the league and the Foxes are now reaping the rewards of that. They’ve always been a bit of a side who are either battling for promotion or fighting relegation and they’re not used to this sort of stability.
After winning the title a few years ago there’s an argument that it won’t get any better than that – so what are the targets for Puel and the club now?
It was so incredible that it’s now difficult – Claudio Ranieri struggled with that the following season – some big teams put the medal in the draw and move on to the next one, but that’s almost impossible for Leicester City to do because it was great.
It’s so natural for it to be celebrated – the season after they did struggle. Puel has changed where Leicester are trying to battle. They now want to be in the top half of the table regularly and the owners have said that’s where they want to be, as well as trying to get the return of European football.
Who’s the one to watch for the Foxes this weekend?
Riyad Mahrez would be the one – parallels can be drawn between him and Anthony Knockaert because the Frenchman was essentially in his role before Riyad joined the club.
There has been a lot of talk about him leaving because I think he feels he might want a new challenge elsewhere at a bigger club at some point – Leicester gave him a chance and he loves his teammates – he’s come back after January and knuckled down and he’s performing like he did in the title-winning season.
He’s playing excellently and he’s the one who can get the team back into a game or win them a contest to conjure up something special.