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Pressure grows on Puel as Long ends famine to boost Saints

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Leicester City manager Claude Puel. Photo: Getty Images

Leicester City manager Claude Puel. Photo: Getty Images

Leicester City via Getty Images

Leicester City manager Claude Puel. Photo: Getty Images

Claude Puel is backing his players to defy the bookmakers as he faces yet another crucial period in his troubled reign at Leicester City.

Puel's position is under pressure again and he has risked further alienating supporters by insisting the boos at the final whistle of Saturday's 2-1 defeat by Southampton - which saw Shane Long hit his first goal since last April - were "not my concern".

The next four games will certainly be a concern to Leicester, who face Wolves, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham in a testing sequence of fixtures.

It promises to be a pivotal four weeks for the Frenchman as he battles growing unrest behind the scenes and criticism over his style of play from supporters.

Yet Leicester have already shown a propensity for the unpredictable, after effectively saving Puel's job with wins over Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton during the festive period.

"I think people cannot make a lot of bets on us because it's always a surprise and I hope we will continue the surprises," said Puel.

Struggler

After losing to Cardiff, this was Leicester's second successive defeat at home against a relegation struggler and there was a depressing inevitability about it all for the home fans.

They are growing tired of Puel's side failing to break down teams who put men behind the ball and, despite Southampton being reduced to 10 men with the dismissal of Yan Valery before half-time, a comeback never looked likely.

There is also growing concern over the performances of Jamie Vardy, whose qualities as a centre-forward are being nullified by Puel's game plan at home. Harry Maguire also had an afternoon to forget - along with most of his team-mates.

Southampton are now up to 16th after this deserved win and optimism continues to build.

James Ward-Prowse gave them the lead from the penalty spot and then Long scored after Valery had been dismissed for a second bookable offence.

Remarkably, Long has scored his last four goals for Southampton under four different managers.

Leicester responded through Wilfred Ndidi's close-range finish but Southampton held on to move out of the relegation zone.

Ward-Prowse believes the impact made by manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has been remarkable.

"We have a clear structure and a plan of what to do," he said. "You can see in the performances and games we've had, there's an idea and a philosophy, and that's grown. We've had good and bad results but the progress is there to be seen." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk