(Reuters) - Leicester City have no reason to sweat over potentially being dragged into the Premier League relegation battle, Stoke City manager Mark Hughes said while suggesting that opponents may have worked out how to play against the champions.
Leicester have struggled to build on their unexpected title triumph last season and sit 14th in the table after 16 games, four points ahead of the bottom-three ahead of Saturday’s trip to face 12th-placed Stoke.
“Maybe teams have looked at their style of play, which hasn’t changed,” Hughes told reporters on Friday. “They are at the best when they can force teams on to them and then utilise their pace to break forward.”
Having picked up just one point in their eight away matches, Leicester also have the joint worst away record in the league with Burnley but will hope to pick up their first league win on the road against Stoke.
“It’s always difficult after winning the title, and Leicester are finding that out. Their away form has been surprising this season,” Hughes added.
”I don’t think there is any fear of them going down this season -- they are just struggling for continuity in terms of results.
“You can see the ability they have -- they will be fine. They will just be a little frustrated.”
On-loan goalkeeper Lee Grant made a surprise switch to Stoke in August after falling down the pecking order at second-tier side Derby County and has flourished in the absence of first-choice Jack Butland.
Hughes said Stoke will not be held for ransom as they attempt to secure a permanent deal for Grant.
”At the moment, Derby want a bit too much money,“ Hughes said. ”There needs to be a common ground. There’s a value on Lee but we’re not going to be held to ransom.
“At the moment we’re a little bit far apart. If that continues we’ll have to look at other options.”
Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly