London (AFP) – Leicester manager Claude Puel said preparing for the first home game since the death of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a helicopter crash had been tough but that his players would “compensate with our spirit”.
Following their 1-0 victory against Cardiff in the Premier League last week, Puel flew to Bangkok with some of his players to attend a mourning rite for Vichai, meaning preparations for Saturday’s match against Burnley were disrupted.
The 60-year-old Vichai died on October 27, along with four others, when his helicopter crashed and burst into flames moments after taking off from inside Leicester’s King Power Stadium following a 1-1 draw with West Ham.
“It was a long journey but it was very important for us to support Vichai’s family and honour our chairman,” Puel said on Thursday. “We tried to work a little of Wednesday and had a light training session today, the same tomorrow.
“It is not easy to prepare for this game. The emotion, no consistency in training sessions. But we will compensate with our spirit and attitude and the support from the fans, of course.
“In the last game (Cardiff) we found the right balance between emotion and the balance in our game. We have to do the same again and give the right response to honour our chairman.”
Puel hopes his players cope with the emotion of Saturday’s match but praised his players for how they had reacted following the tragedy.
“The players have shown great maturity, it is like a family,” he said.
“We will manage the moment step by step but I feel in my players focus and soul,” he added. “They have learned a lot about themselves in all this and I am proud of them all.”
Many tributes to those killed in the crash are planned on Saturday including a special “Tribute to Khun Vichai” video to be shown on the big screens inside the stadium.
Thousands of fans plan to march from the city centre to the ground.