Leicester City chief Claudio Ranieri gets Norwich City boss Alex Neil’s vote

Norwich City manager Alex Neil is a big fan of Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri. Picture by Pa

Norwich City manager Alex Neil is a big fan of Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Claudio Ranieri would already get Alex Neil's vote for manager-of-the-season but Norwich City will look to put another dent in Leicester City's Premier League title push on Saturday to boost their own survival hopes.

The Italian has guided the unfashionable Foxes firmly into championship contention, with a potent counter-attacking style built on the prolific goalscoring form of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.

'Without question he would be my manager of the year. There can't be any doubts about that. He has been an absolute stand-out,' said Neil. 'What they have managed to achieve and if they go on to win the Premier League it will probably be the biggest upset in football. I'm not sure if they will go on and win it, but I don't see any reason why not because there isn't much to go and they have lasted this far. I'm sure football purists would think to see a smaller team winning it could be refreshing.

'I think they have done incredibly well. What they have managed to do as a team, the manager included, is unbelievable. It is all credit to them but they have struck upon a way they are comfortable in playing and some individuals within that structure have had outstanding seasons and made the difference at crucial moments.'

Neil feels Norwich may be able to profit from a new phase in Leicester's rapid development, with the Foxes knowing they must beat his side to maintain their charge after slipping up in dramatic fashion last time out at rivals Arsenal.

'They will certainly be targeting the games coming up now if they want to stay where they are in the table. These are the games they need to try and win,' he said. 'Both teams will want the three points for different reasons. It is perhaps the reverse of when we play the Arsenals or the Manchester Citys, where the expectation levels are we want to give it a good go and hopefully win, but when it is the teams down around you the expectation is we should win. That is where the expectations have changed for Leicester. We'll have to be at our best, that is for certain.

'The Arsenal game will certainly affect them. The longer term damage remains to be seen.

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'I don't think there is any question when you lose a big match it does have an impact, although it can be a positive in terms of rallying the troops. The mental side is huge because the games vary that much. You can be at Arsenal one week and then say Aston Villa at home the next, which is opposite ends of the spectrum.'

Norwich lost the corresponding fixture 2-1 at Carrow Road with Leicester serving up another counter-attacking masterclass.

'They are a type of team who are comfortable without the ball. I think they have only had more than 50pc of possession twice this season, one against 10 men and one against West Brom,' said Neil. 'A lot of the time it is not about any specific statistic, it is finding a formula that is successful. We are fully aware of their strengths and we have to find a method to counter-act them.'