Foxes mix­ing with big boys

Ranieri feels Cham­pi­ons League pro­vides a chance to bounce back

The Star (Kenya) - - Sports - LON­DON/

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.

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