Claudio Ranieri has highlighted Tottenham as an example for his Leicester City side to follow as the teams prepare for the first match of a White Hart Lane double header.
Leicester head to London in an FA Cup third-round tie on Sunday and a coincidence means Spurs will host them again in the Premier League three days later.
Ranieri’s side have been the surprise package in the league this season and are two points off leaders Arsenal after 20 matches.
But Spurs, 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 than Leicester and Ranieri 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 this week, says Spurs’ model is one that Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is keen to replicate.
“When I signed he told me he [Srivaddhanaprabha] 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.”
The fixture comes on the back of a busy festive period and before the midweek Premier League encounter.
Pochettino insisted his team will give their all to succeed in a competition that Tottenham have won eight times, but 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 midfield duo Mousa Dembele (ankle) and Ryan Mason (knee) are close to a first-team return, but will not be involved against Leicester.
Leicester will be without top scorer Jamie Vardy after the England international had surgery to treat a minor groin complaint.
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