Claude Puel gives his verdict on Newcastle ahead of Leicester’s visit to St James’s Park

Leicester boss Claude Puel speaks to on-form star Riyad Mahrez.
Leicester boss Claude Puel speaks to on-form star Riyad Mahrez.
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Claude Puel has told of his “respect” for Newcastle United – and Rafa Benitez.

Leicester City team take on Benitez’s side at St James’s Park on Saturday.

Newcastle have taken just one point from their last six games.

That run has seen the club drop down to 15th in the Premier League.

Leicester manager Puel, appointed as successor to Craig Shakespeare in October, is looking for his third successive top-flight win in English football.

Puel, however, is wary of United, despite the team’s recent poor form.

We have a lot of respect for Newcastle. They are a good team and have a great manager with quality on the team.

Rafa Benitez

“We have a lot of respect for Newcastle,” said Puel, who managed Southampton last season.

“They are a good team and have a great manager with quality on the team.

“They know themselves very well, because they play together in the Championship.

“They had a good start to the season, and they have good structure, good play and strong on the counter-attack.

“We need to keep a good concentration and focus on this team.

“It will be a difficult atmosphere, because there will be 50,000 people cheering them on.

“It’s another good challenge. It’s important to play a good game.”

Asked about his team’s hopes of a third successive win, Puel said: “Time will tell.

“For me, it’s important to keep a good focus and concentrate on the next game and try to make a strong team.

“Maybe we will see after the game.”

Puel also lauded striker Jamie Vardy ahead of the game.

Vardy has scored two of his seven Premier League goals his season in the six matches since Puel was appointed as manager at the end of October.

The 30-year-old – who joined Leicester from Fleetwood Town for £1million in 2012 – will look to score his 50th Premier League goal for the club at St James’s Park.

“I think Jamie Vardy’s the complete player,” said Puel.

“I would always prefer to have him in my team.

“He’s enjoying his football – it’s amazing to see. He works hard for the team and always has a positive attitude. If we can help him to score it will be 50 goals, which is a good thing.

“He’s a great player, and now with a lot of experience – maturity in the Premier League – he can give a lot to the team. I was surprised to know his qualities.”

Newcastle’s third-round FA Cup tie against Luton Town will be played on Saturday, January 6 (3pm kick-off).

Meanwhile, Kelland Watts scored a hat-trick as United’s Under-18s booked a place in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup with a 5-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion tonight. Lewis Cass and Kurtis Russell also found the net at the Amex Stadium.