Manchester City edge closer towards the half-way point of the season in relatively decent nick, sitting three points from the summit, having topped their difficult Champions League group and booked a place in the Capital One Cup semi-final. The truth is though is that the results have generally been churned out, as injuries to key men have prevented City from stepping out of second gear. However, with a host of players finally fit and the pain of the Arsenal defeat still stinging, City will be determined to finally stamp some authority on the title race.
In our way stand this season’s fairytale story in Leicester City, in a game that was probably overlooked when the fixture list first came out in August. Leicester miraculously sit top of the league ahead of a game that is quite rightly being billed as a clash between two of the three title challengers. Pending other results, Manchester City could take top spot if they secure a rare away win on Tuesday night.
Hey Chris, thanks for coming onto City Watch’s very first Ask the Opposition! What Leicester City are doing right now is truly extraordinary; you’re basically breaking every written rule in modern football. Considering your resources, you have absolutely no right to be going toe-toe with financial behemoths in City and Arsenal. I genuinely think it’s a footballing miracle.
It is spectacular, though I knew that this side was capable of emulating the Stokes and West Broms of the Premier League, I never considered for a second we would be in a title race at the turn of the New Year. The results have just kept plodding along and with every game you can see that we’re the real deal – it really is extraordinary but I don’t think it’s just us, you can see the status quo being challenged by Crystal Palace and Watford too!
A lot of people had you down as favourites to be relegated this season. I guess those who had watched you from afar last year had assumed that you didn’t have the goals in your side and that your midfield was weak after Esteban Cambiasso had departed in the summer. How wrong were they?
I think tips for us to be relegated were on the whole rather lazy. I guess it’s easier for more to say that, knowing that our second half performance last term was more reflective of our team’s quality than the first. Cambiasso was mourned by every Leicester fan over Summer, and he’ll remain a popular figure in Foxes folklore forever but our midfield, is dare I say it – stronger without him. That’s not to say Esteban Cambiasso isn’t a footballing deity, it’s just that he’s not N’Golo Kanté.
Talk to me about Claudio Ranieri. You guys took a lot of flak from mainstream pundits in the summer for appointing him. How much of your fantastic season has been down to him?
I think most of our fanbase were highly skeptical about Ranieri’s appointment too. Those outside the club have rightly noticed that this season’s form has mostly been a continuation of our end of season form masterminded by Nigel Pearson. But, Ranieri has to take credit too, he has acted true to his representation and merely tinkered with our set-up. Any changes Ranieri has made have been nuanced to say the least, but they’re having a massive effect for which he deserves a lot of credit.
How do you think Leicester will approach this game considering it’s at home and that it is your very first title clash to say?
I hope we play to our strengths – defend from the front and attack, attack, attack! Oddly of the three title chasing clubs we’ve met at home this season, we’ve gained more points for being slightly more ‘Italian’ tactically (as Ranieri would put it) with two 1-1 draws against Man Utd and Spurs – but I honestly think we could have got more from both, especially the former, a game against relegation fodder. We tried to play an open game against Arsenal and lost 5-2, a result which didn’t really reflect the balance of play. That’s the decision for Claudio, attack and go for triple or nothing or be a bit more reserved and probably get the one point.
I think the whole nation has fallen in love with Riyad Mahrez. How confident are you that you can keep him and Jamie Vardy next summer? Or does that all depend on where you finish?
I like to think that my favourite players are as smitten with the Foxes as I am – but I know that’s rarely the case. I think talk of Vardy or Mahrez leaving in January is premature hearsay, why would they leave now?! In regards to the Summer window, it will all depend on where we are in the table and how much ambition we have going forward in to 2016-17.
Where do you think you’ll finish?
I would love to say that we’ll complete the unlikeliest Premier League title win in history but I can’t be that confident with half the season still to go – this is Leicester after all! That being said, we’ve amassed enough points to be seriously disappointed to miss out on European football come May. 3rd.
One Manchester City player you’d take in your team?
It would have to be Aguero wouldn’t it? One thing City (our City!) fans worry about is if Vardy were to be injured and goals were to dry up in attack, so having yet another striker of that potency wouldn’t go amiss.
Your prediction for tomorrow night?
We’ve met Man City a few times in recent years, due to cup ties and what not and I’m still a little bit bitter we didn’t dump you out of the FA Cup back in the Sven years. I’ll be optimistic here – 2-1 to the mighty Foxes!