LONDON (Reuters) - Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew has backed Saturday's opponents Leicester City to shrug off their poor start to the season and finish comfortably in the top half of the Premier League.
Champions Leicester are 13th in the table, with two wins from eight games, but their poor domestic form has been tempered by an encouraging start in the Champions League, where they top their group with three wins in three games.
Pardew, whose team are ninth after being beaten at home by West Ham United last weekend, is expecting another tough contest away to a Leicester side he says is full of "character".
"Leicester will certainly finish in the top eight, so there's a real fight for us," Pardew told reporters on Friday.
"I think they've targeted the Champions League this year and quite rightly so after last year... They won the league because of the character in the dressing room, and that character will come through.
"We think we can go toe-to-toe with anybody. I think this fixture will be very tight again and I hope we come out on the right side."
Leicester lost midfielder N'Golo Kante to Chelsea in the close season and Pardew said the departure of the Frenchman, one of the pivotal figures in last season's title-winning team, was the reason why Claudio Ranieri's men were struggling.
"They're missing Kante and they haven't quite got the balance right without him. Any club would miss him, he's proved his worth at Chelsea," Pardew said.
Palace defender Scott Dann will be on the bench on Saturday after missing their last three league games with a hamstring injury.
(Reporting by Ian Rodricks in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)