Leicester Mercury journalist Rob Tanner gives us the inside track on Wednesday's Premier League opponents.
How would sum up Leicester City’s season so far?
A real mixed bag. We started with a tough run of fixtures and after defeats to Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, Craig Shakespeare lost his job as City were flirting with a relegation battle. Since Claude Puel has come in there has been a great run of results. There was a sense within the camp that not a lot was wrong when Shakespeare was sacked, but the players have embraced Puel’s new approach and it seems to be a happy ship at the moment.
After three straight wins, what is the mood like at the club?
Buoyant. After all the uncertainty after Shakespeare’s departure, Puel has steadied the ship and results have convinced the players that his methods will work. Any doubts have been dispelled. I think the players quite enjoy the more possession-based approach we are seeing at the moment. Confidence is high and there is a belief they can challenge for European qualification.
What sort of an impact has Claude Puel had since his arrival and has the style of play changed?
He switched to a 4-2-3-1 and the front four of Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, Marc Albrighton and Demarai Gray has been exciting to watch. Puel arrived with a reputation for playing defensive football because his Saints side didn’t score many goals, although he did lead them to eighth in the table and to the League Cup final, but so far it has been an attacking, fast-paced brand of football that the City fans are enjoying. He is also keen to bring through young players like Gray and Ben Chilwell.
Who will be the key men for Leicester on Wednesday night?
Mahrez and Vardy remain the main men for City. Mahrez’s form has started to return while Vardy needs one more to become the first City player to score 50 Premier League goals. Gray has taken his chance under Puel. He struggled to get a run of games under Claudio Ranieri and Shakespeare, but he has started all but one of Puel’s games in charge and is growing in confidence. Albrighton has been excellent too.
What have you made of Southampton’s form recently and what sort of game are you expecting?
The return of Charlie Austin has been a boost for the Saints but it has been a more challenging season this time than the previous couple of campaigns, but with the crowd behind them on Wednesday, City are expecting a tough game. The performance against Arsenal looked good and they gave Manchester City a good game at the Etihad, so there are promising signs.