Ranieri seeks young talent

Leicester City's new signing 19-year-old Demarai Gray could be handed his debut against Tottenham in their FA Cup third-round fixture.
Leicester City's new signing 19-year-old Demarai Gray could be handed his debut against Tottenham in their FA Cup third-round fixture.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

Leicester boss is fascinated by Spurs' young squad and also hopes to emulate their model

LONDON • Many are impressed by Leicester City's displays this season, where they have defied the odds to rank among the top clubs in the Premier League.

But their own manager, Claudio Ranieri, is more stirred by the exploits of Tottenham Hotspur, whom they face in an FA Cup third-round tie today.

His side are two points behind league leaders Arsenal after 20 matches. But Tottenham, who were beaten 2-1 at home by Leicester in the FA Cup fourth round last season, are only two places and four points worse off.

And the Italian has been impressed by the way counterpart Mauricio Pochettino has assembled a talented squad of youngsters.

"It is difficult to play Tottenham because they have fantastic players," he told The Evening Standard.

"They have a first team and second team the same.

"They have a lot of young players. Why? Because they started earlier than us. We want to follow their example."

Ranieri, who could hand a debut to 19-year-old Demarai Gray following his arrival from Birmingham City last week, says Spurs' model is one that Leicester's Thai owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is keen to replicate.

"When I signed, he (Srivaddhanaprabha) told me he wants to build good, young players and a team that can compete with the big teams, to get into Europe in two or three years, after that the Champions League," he added. "I said we'll work hard to achieve it."

Leicester head to London today without top scorer Jamie Vardy, after the England international had surgery to treat a minor groin complaint. They will face Tottenham again in the Premier League on Wednesday.

Ranieri's side have not found the back of the net for three games and appear a little jaded of late. So, the manager, with the Foxes "safe" in the league having reached 40 points, might ring the changes in order to give the likes of Marcin Wasilewski, Gokhan Inler and Andrej Kramaric some game time.

Pochettino, who revealed on Friday that he and Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will sing a duet if the London club win the FA Cup, will want his players to give their all to succeed in a competition that Tottenham have won eight times.

But he will give opportunities to players on the fringe of the first team.

"It is the oldest competition in the world and we respect it," he said. "We have a strong squad and Christmas was busy.

"It's a good chance for some players who deserve to play to show their quality and fight for a place in the team."

Pochettino confirmed that midfield duo Mousa Dembele (ankle) and Ryan Mason (knee) are close to a first-team return, but will not be involved against Leicester.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 10, 2016, with the headline 'Ranieri seeks young talent'. Print Edition | Subscribe