London (AFP) – Leicester City boss Claude Puel believes Riyad Mahrez is in “better” shape than before his self-imposed Foxes exile.
The Algerian looks set to return to Puel’s starting line-up for Friday’s fifth-round FA Cup tie against Sheffield United after a three-game absence.
Mahrez missed training for 10 days following Leicester’s refusal to entertain a bid from runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City before last month’s transfer deadline.
However, he made his Leicester comeback as a second-half substitute against prospective employers City last weekend just a day after returning to training as Puel’s men were thrashed 5-1.
“I think better,” said Puel when asked if Mahrez is still in the form that has seen him score nine goals and provide nine assists this season.
“He enjoys to play and train with his team-mates and he is at a good level with no problem.
“He has come back with a smile. The story is behind him, all the players want to move on.”
Leicester are one of few Premier League sides without a relegation battle or fight for Champions League places on their hands, allowing Puel to concentrate on a bid for Cup glory.
And the Frenchman is hoping the best of Leicester’s season is still to come with the Mahrez saga put to bed.
“It is important to put an end to the talking about Riyad, he came back to the game at Manchester City,” he added.
“We need to move on, for him he needs to kick on, like the team. The most important thing is in front of us.”