Leicester boss Claude Puel targets ‘second championship’

Claude Puel says Leicester cannot compete with the top six, but he has challenged the Foxes to win the “second championship” in the Premier League.

Leicester won the Premier League two seasons ago under Claudio Ranieri, but Puel admits that competing with the top six once again is currently a pipe dream.

Asked if seventh place was a realistic target, he told a press conference: “Of course, the first six places are difficult, to play against these great teams.

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February 24, 2018, 12:30pm

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“I hope in the future we can evolve and go up against these teams, but for the moment, there’s a second championship, I think.

“Of course it will be a good thing if we can compete with all the teams around this position because I think it’s close between many teams.

Leicester boss Claude Puel says highly-rated defender Harry Maguire is continuing to develop well at the club

“It’s a good challenge until the end of the season to play and to try to have a good place, a good position in the table.”

Leicester head into the game fresh from securing an FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea sitting in eighth place, a point behind Burnley, but 10 shy of Arsenal in sixth.

However, Puel is taking nothing for granted despite Stoke’s recent woes, with the Potters entrenched inside the relegation zone with only one win in eight league outings.

He said: “It will be a tough game against this team because for me, we will not be playing against a 19th-placed team. They play well with good football on the floor, quality, good pressing, fighting spirit.

“At this moment, this is not a team playing for relegation. We need to be careful about this team because it has good potential.

“With (Xherdan) Shaqiri and (Joe) Allen, they can make the difference at any moment.”

In Leicester’s favour is the form of striker Jamie Vardy, who has scored in each of his last five games, although it is not just the England international’s potency which has impressed his manager.

Puel said: “I’m happy because he’s clinical and for a striker, it’s the most important thing. But also, he can play with his team-mates with good combination and good understanding with them and he has made progress also in the collective play.

“That’s interesting. He is 31, but he continues to make progress. That’s good.”