EPL form a worry as Le­ices­ter en­ters defin­ing week in Europe

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Cham­pi­ons one sea­son. Rel­e­gated the next.

It has only ever hap­pened to one team in the high­est di­vi­sion of English foot­ball - Man­ches­ter City in 1937-38 - so Le­ices­ter is try­ing to avoid an un­wanted piece of his­tory this sea­son.

At the start of a week when the team from cen­tral Eng­land could clinch a place in the last 16 of the Cham­pi­ons League, it is Le­ices­ter’s form in the Premier League that is pos­si­bly the big­gest talk­ing point. A 3-1 loss to Wat­ford on Satur­day left Le­ices­ter in 14th place in the 20-team league and just two points above the bot­tom three. No one fore­saw Clau­dio Ranieri’s team win­ning the Premier League last sea­son - the pre-sea­son odds on that hap­pen­ing were 5,000-1 but its rapid fall from grace is tak­ing many by sur­prise, too.

“The rel­e­ga­tion is very close to us and we have to re­act,” Ranieri said af­ter the loss to Wat­ford. “I ex­pected dif­fi­cul­ties, but not so strong.”

Yes­ter­day, Ranieri dis­missed a sug­ges­tion that his play­ers have been dis­tracted by com­pet­ing in the Cham­pi­ons League.

“I don’t think it’s a dis­trac­tion, it’s en­joy­ment,” Ranieri said at a news con­fer­ence ahead of the home match against Club Brugge to­day. “I don’t see the dif­fer­ence.”

Yet, in five Premier League matches played the week­end be­fore a Cham­pi­ons League game, Le­ices­ter has col­lected just one point. Le­ices­ter has al­ready lost six games in the league, which is dou­ble the num­ber of losses from last sea­son’s ti­tle-win­ning cam­paign.

“If you see the match against Wat­ford and the match against Copen­hagen or Brugge or Porto, it’s the same,” Ranieri said. “The dif­fer­ence is in the Cham­pi­ons League matches we score, in the other matches no.

“Our fo­cus is this: Try to win to­mor­row and then go back into the Premier League and try to im­prove our ta­ble. Yes, of course I have to work harder, ev­ery­one has to work harder.”

Le­ices­ter was for­tu­nate to be drawn in one of the weaker Cham­pi­ons League groups and the team has made the most of it, win­ning three games, draw­ing the other and con­ced­ing no goals.

The Foxes only need a point to­day to be sure of a place in the knock­out stage, al­low­ing the fo­cus to switch en­tirely to the team’s league form - at least un­til Fe­bru­ary.

“Our fairy­tale is con­tin­u­ing,” Ranieri said. “We did some­thing spe­cial last sea­son and we’re do­ing it again this sea­son.”

Le­ices­ter City coach Clau­dio Ranieri in­struct­ing his play­ers dur­ing the de­feat against Wat­ford at the week­end Photo: AP

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