Foxes mixing with big boys
Ranieri feels Champions League provides a chance to bounce back
The closest Leicester got to a European trip in recent years was crossing the Welsh border to play Swansea in the Premier League.
Now, they’ll be visiting Belgium, Portugal and Denmark — and if all goes well, even more countries — for matches in their first-ever campaign in the Champions League.
In their 132-year history, Leicester has only had four seasons of European competition — the last coming in 2000 in the now-defunct UEFA Cup after winning the English League Cup. That was Leicester’s last piece of major silverware before shocking the sporting world by winning the Premier League last season.
The intervening 16-year period was a bumpy ride for the central English club, which bobbed up and down between England’s top two divisions — and even spent a season in the third tier in 200809 — and also drifted close to financial ruin before being taken over by a Thai consortium in 2010.
There’s been something of a championship-winning hangover at Leicester, though, and the Champions League campaign, which starts at Club Brugge on Wednesday, will offer some respite after a sobering start to the Premier League title defense.
Having lost just three league games last season, Claudio Ranieri’s team has lost two of its opening four matches this season and the manner of the defeats will be a concern.
“We have to clear our minds,” Ranieri said, “and understand that in football we have to be strong, determined, aggressive and reactive.”
It’s not all doom and gloom for Leicester, however. The club ended up being one of English football’s biggest spenders in the summer transfer window, breaking its transfer record twice to sign strikers Ahmed Musa, then Islam Slimani.
“Once again, I say we are underdogs,” said Ranieri, who is embarking on a sixth Champions League campaign with a sixth different club. And that’s just how they like it in Leicester.
Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri with his captain Wes Morgan.