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A tale of two cities as high-flying Leicester rock up in Norfolk, in underwhelming form. Andrew Lawn chats to TalkSport’s Jake Watson to set the scene. The Great Escape has to start somewhere, so let’s kick it off here...
Andy - Given the season you had a few years ago, it's nonsensical to call this a dream season, but surely very few people expected what looks like a comfortable top 3/4 finish?
Jake - Unfortunately for Leicester fans we have already peaked when it comes to supporting our club but what has happened this season certainly isn’t far off as it was just so unexpected, also the football has been more easy on the eye than the 2015/16 season.
There is no pressure on us this time around and the idea of playing Champions League football next season is all we are focused on achieving now.
What were the expectations pre-season?
This week marked one year of Brendan Rodgers at Leicester and in that time only Liverpool and Man City have picked up more points. That, I think, highlights how well things ended last season.
Personally, I thought if we had the perfect season and one of the ‘Big 6’ had an off year then we could get European football. Some fans were convinced we could challenge for top 4 and whilst at the time I thought that was massively ambitious they have been proven correct.
I think we must stress that while Leicester have been good we have been very fortuitous that Spurs, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea have been so average.
You can only beat what's in front of you. Which brings us on to Friday, you know City pretty well, what have you made of our season?
I take no pleasure in saying it, but it’s been all too predictable.
A manager with no Premier League experience and a group of players with very little of the same experience has meant that naivety and a lack of quality has proven to be deciding factor on too many occasions. Norwich have won a lot of plaudits for the way they have gone about their business on and off the pitch and whilst I’m completely aware that is the way they have to operate, what it does mean is there is a huge amount of pressure on getting recruitment right.
Financially it’s a low risk transfer strategy but ultimately the percentages of good signings will be lower. If any two of Farhmann, Roberts, Drmic, Amadou had turned out to be hits like Buendia and Pukki were, then the season could have been so different.
Talking of Pukki, how's the tattoo?
Haha the name that will follow me around forever, quite literally. The tattoo is happening but it will be a little while before the ink is applied!
I will be raising some money for a local charity which I will advertise through the EDP and I am also in the process of arranging a trip to Finland to film a short documentary about him.
So, as soon as that is all done then the tattoo can happen and I will let everyone know about it.
We'll help you spread the word...
Back to the game, how do you see it going? You're in a mini slump and we're all ready to start the great escape. Three home points right?
I’m one of those fans who always expects the worse. So even though we’re 3rd and you’re bottom my head tells me we will lose and we will eventually fall out of the top 4.
Because of my ties to the city I always look out for Norwich’s results but at the same time because of those friends and family who support the club this is the game that I want to win more than any other. Leicester haven’t been at their fluid best since the start of the year and a lot rests on the fitness of N’Didi and Vardy.
N’Didi is completely vital to the way we play and Vardy, despite still being the league’s top scorer, is in a drought. If N’Didi is passed fit and plays and Vardy is back to his best then I think we win but that’s about as confident as I’m willing to be about this game.
I have been hugely impressed with N'Didi. I think that midfield of him, Maddison and Tielemans is up there with the very best in Europe. How likely is he to be fit?
I tend to agree although Tielemans and Maddison have not been at their best in recent months and I do put that down to not having N’Didi behind them as their assurance.
I think we prepare for either Hamza Choudhury or Denis Praet to play the game. They are both very good players who would get in most Premier League sides but ultimately, they just don’t quite do the same job.
N’Didi is back in training so if it was me picking the side then I would play him and I do get the impression that Rodgers also recognises just how important he is, so fingers crossed he starts.
I'd rest him on the assumption we're bottom and save him for the later games... It would be the decent thing to do.
Apart from slightly off-form, how is Mr Maddison?
Well, it’s funny you say that, as our next four games are our most important. We play Norwich, Aston Villa, Watford and Brighton. 3 or 4 wins would pretty much see us over the line for top 4.
Maddison, as Norwich fans will know all too well, is a wonderfully gifted footballer. He has the ability to create and score goals from almost impossible situations but he is also one of those players that you have to accept will give the ball away. He has to take risks. Right now it’s not all coming off for him but you know he is always just a spectacular free kick or long range special away from returning to form.
He’s been in talks over signing a new contract with the club for a long while now and whilst we are told it is all but agreed I can’t help but feel those negotiations may be a small factor in his dip in form.
Let's shake hands on you getting three of those wins now. You can have them, just let us win Friday. Pleasure doing business with you.
Let's quickly touch on atmosphere. Leicester fans get a lot of stick for the clappers, but they were at least partially credited with keeping you up and then winning you the title. Where do you stand on them and what is the matchday atmosphere like at the King Power?
I honestly thought the whole clappers thing had gone away now? There will always be a section of fans (our own included) who won’t use them and that’s absolutely fine however there is not an ongoing debate on their future - they appear very much here to stay. I personally don’t use the one that is put on my chair but plenty do and it does have a positive impact on sound levels within the ground.
The reality is that the atmosphere in Premier League grounds is often poor. That is put down to ticket prices pricing out ‘real fans’ but I feel like the match day experience for a home fan is far more family oriented who perhaps sing less and the atmosphere is regularly carried by the travelling fans.
People who criticise and mock another football clubs attempts to improve the atmosphere and experience seems very odd to me. I know I’m biased but I believe the King Power is one of the best atmospheres in the Premier League.
I agree that anything that improves it should be applauded (boom boom) and it's worth trying anything, because you're right the atmosphere at most grounds is just awful.
Right let's finish with an ultra-specific prediction. Score, scorers, minutes, methods etc etc...
Ok, so stick your mortgage on this. So, it’s Denis Praet who starts in midfield for Leicester instead of N’Didi who is deemed only fit enough for a place on the bench. Norwich start the much brighter of the two sides but are unable to score the decisive goal so the first half will end goalless.
With the deadlock still to be broken N’Didi will then be introduced to give everyone a lift around the hour mark. I’m almost certain it will be around this point that Grant Hanley will foul Jamie Vardy and give away a penalty.......full time score Norwich 0-1 Leicester City
Giving the way your bets have gone previously, we might not stick the whole mortgage on...
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