LONDON • Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew has backed today's opponents, Leicester City, to shrug off their poor start to the season and finish comfortably in the top half of the English Premier League.
The champions are 13th in the table, with two wins from eight games. But their poor domestic form has been tempered by an encouraging start in the Champions League, where they top their group with three wins in three games.
Pardew, whose team are ninth after being beaten 1-0 at home by West Ham United last weekend, is expecting another tough contest away to a Leicester side he says is full of "character".
"Leicester will certainly finish in the top eight, so there's a real fight for us," Pardew said yesterday.
"I think they've targeted the Champions League this year and quite rightly so after last year.
"They won the league because of the character in the dressing room, and that character will come through.
LEAGUE POSITION (AFTER EIGHT GAMES)
Last season: Fifth
This season: 13th
This season: -6 (GF8 GA14)
Last season: +2 (GF17 GA15)
"I think this fixture will be very tight and I hope we come out on the right side."
Leicester lost midfielder N'Golo Kante to Chelsea in the close season and Pardew said the departure of the Frenchman is the reason Claudio Ranieri's men are struggling.
"They're missing Kante and they haven't quite got the balance right without him. Any club would miss him; he's proved his worth at Chelsea," Pardew said.
Leicester got a boost yesterday when Austrian international defender Christian Fuchs signed a new three-year contract.
The 30-year-old former national captain - who retired from international football after Austria exited Euro 2016 at the group stage - said it was appropriate a player whose name is Austrian for fox should be playing with a team whose nickname is the "Foxes".
"My name is the Austrian Fox and now I'm staying with the English Foxes," Fuchs said.
Ranieri, who celebrated his 65th birthday on Thursday, is confident Leicester will embark on a good run in the Premier League after beating FC Copenhagen 1-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday.
"We made a very good match on Tuesday, but now we think of Crystal Palace," the Italian said.
"Palace are strong at the back and then they have good players at the front. A good and organised team. We must be clever."
LEICESTER V CRYSTAL PALACE
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