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Okazaki backs Leicester to beat Liverpool and launch another stunning title bid


LEICESTER tore Liverpool apart five years ago this month on the way to their incredible Premier League title triumph.

Jamie Vardy’s deadly double at the King Power — including a wonder strike that left new Reds manager Jurgen Klopp on the verge of applauding it — did the job.

Leicester icon Shinji Okazaki is currently plying his trade at Huesca in LaLiga

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Leicester icon Shinji Okazaki is currently plying his trade at Huesca in LaLiga

In that Foxes side was Japanese star Shinji Okazaki — a fans’ favourite and cult hero who played his part in one of the most incredible sporting moments in history.

And ahead of reigning champions Liverpool returning to the East Midlands today, Leicester are once again involved in another astonishing title race.

For Okazaki, it proves Brendan Rodgers’ side are no longer improbable contenders after floating back down to earth following their 5000-1 2016  triumph.

The striker — now playing for LaLiga minnows Huesca — remains devoted to following his beloved Foxes and watches the majority of their games.

Now aged 34, he said: “I think Leicester are doing fantastically well.

“Vardy is doing well still which is incredible given how long he has been at the top level.

“There have been some injuries for the team but I saw their win over Fulham and that shows just how solid their football is at the moment.

“It doesn’t matter who is on the pitch and that is all down to Brendan Rodgers, who has got them dreaming of winning titles again.”

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Okazaki was a key part of the Leicester side that won the Premier League in 2016

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Okazaki was a key part of the Leicester side that won the Premier League in 2016Credit: Getty Images – Getty

Okazaki spent four seasons with the club — his first being the surge to the title under ‘the Tinkerman’, Claudio Ranieri.

He admits to having regrets over his time there, despite more than playing his part in the overachieving squad.

But that title-winning campaign left him with winning qualities that will still be with a portion of Rodgers’ current squad.

Vardy, 34, who picked up 26 England caps, Danish star Kasper Schmeichel, Jamaican defender Wes Morgan, Christian Fuchs from Austria and former England Under-21 winger Marc Albrighton are the survivors at the disposal of Rodgers.

Okazaki said: “There was a lot of support for me at Leicester and I just have gratitude for those people, but during those four years I had to revisit my value as a striker.

“It is very difficult to improve that in a short space of time. There were a lot of struggles I had to go through playing in a different environment.

“I was able to contribute to the team winning but within me personally I wanted to push myself more so I could contribute more.

“But I was also proud and really thankful for the experience I had with the Premier League.

Okazaki scored a sublime overhead kick against Newcastle in the Foxes' title-winning season

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Okazaki scored a sublime overhead kick against Newcastle in the Foxes’ title-winning seasonCredit: Getty Images – Getty

“I then went over to LaLiga with Malaga and now Huesca but that was all because of my experience with Leicester.

Okazaki added:  “That has added to my confidence and tells me what my mindset should be — how to have a winning mindset and how to win coming from a losing position.

“At the moment we are trying to do the same as we did with Leicester. We are solidifying mentally and physically to move forward.”

It certainly would be another sporting miracle should Huesca — currently bottom of LaLiga having won just two games in only their second ever campaign in the Spanish top-flight — rival Leicester’s journey.

Okazaki’s experience came into play to help Huesca back into LaLiga last season by winning the Spanish second division title.

So which title means more? Leicester 2016 or Huesca 2020?

Okazaki explained: “It is very difficult to compare the two. In terms of goalscoring and what I did as a striker, the win with Huesca last year was big.

Okazaki formed a formidable partnership with Jamie Vardy at the King Power Stadium

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Okazaki formed a formidable partnership with Jamie Vardy at the King Power StadiumCredit: PA:Empics Sport

“But at Leicester I fitted in well and contributed on and off the pitch behind the scenes.

“As a Japanese player, the higher value of working well within a team would suggest the Leicester win, but I am comparing apples to apples. They were both valuable experiences.”

Rodgers will be hoping those survivors of the class of 2016 use their own experience to fire Leicester into a second, and arguably even more impressive, Premier League title shout.

Watch LaLiga, all in one place on LaLigaTV — available to Sky UK, Virgin and Amazon Prime customers across the UK from £6.99 a month.

Leicester vs Liverpool – Watch LIVE for FREE, channel info and kick-off time





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