Getting off to a good start in the Champions League group stages can make all the difference towards building momentum and confidence that could carry a team on a crest of a wave towards the latter stages. Many of Europe’s elite have the quality and experience to overcome the obstacles that lie ahead, but for Leicester and Tottenham, dining at the same table with the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich is not a regular occurrence. The former, in particular, are taking everything in their stride during their first ever Champions League campaign as the champions of England, but although both have the quality to progress in their respective groups, it still requires the right level of application and focus against teams who will not give them an easy passage through to the knock-out stages. Coral may not be backing Leicester or Tottenham to go all the way and lift the famous trophy aloft at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff next June, but victories by the same scoreline in Game Week 2 could prove invaluable for different reasons.
Leicester’s fairytale continues
Leicester may be suffering from an element of second season syndrome in the Premier League as the defence of their title has not got off to the best of starts, but their convincing 3-0 victory in Belgium against Club Brugge in Game Week 1 proved that the Foxes can compete in Europe. Claudio Ranieri is under no illusions that his team cannot repeat the magic of last season that saw them take everyone by surprise and become champions of England, despite having potential match-winners in Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy who can cause any team problems. However, he may secretly start to believe that his team can impose themselves on the Champions League stage after Leicester came face-to-face with Portuguese giants and 2004 winners Porto in front of a packed crowd at the King Power Stadium, and more than held their own as they came out deserved 1-0 winners.
New signing Islam Slimani, who is renown as the ‘Dragon Slayer’ due to his superb goal-scoring record against Porto, headed in the winner following a superb Mahrez cross to not only secure all three points for the Foxes, but also maintain Leicester’s 100% start to life in the Champions League. The Algerian is already beginning to pay back some of the £30 million that Leicester forked out to bring him to England, with Slimani not only scoring two goals in as many Premier League appearances, but also opening his Champions League account for Leicester. Coral certainly got their bet of the day right, and while fans can bet they’ll be back on form in the league, Leicester have certainly put themselves in a wonderful position to not only qualify from Group G, but also potentially avoid the big guns by finishing top. The upcoming double header against FC Copenhagen, who sit just behind Leicester with four points after they also swept Club Brugge aside 4-0 with relative ease, could determine who claims top spot, but with the Foxes finding their groove in the Champions League, it is difficult to look past them as favourites.
Spurs prevail in Russia
Trips to CSKA Moscow certainly present a challenge for any visiting European team, with the artificial pitch and considerable drop in temperature, particularly during the autumn and winter season, providing a completely different environment in which to play in. The trip to Russia carried added importance for Tottenham who could have found themselves in a difficult position to qualify from Group E if they suffered another defeat, having lost their opening fixture at Wembley against Monaco. Their task was made even more difficult by the absence of Harry Kane through injury, but in Heung-Min Son they have a player in superb form. The South Korean star came to the rescue yet again for Mauricio Pochettino’s side, with his 71st minute winner securing a deserved 1-0 win that could prove vital.
Tottenham were certainly pushed all the way by a side that, like Spurs, have made an excellent start to their domestic league campaign, as CSKA Moscow put the visitors on the back foot on a number of occasions. Coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Bayer Leverkusen in Game Week 1 proved that the Russian side are no mugs, but picking up three point was all that mattered to Pochettino and Tottenham. It will not get any easier for them, however, with a double header against Bayer Leverkusen likely to produce two enthralling matches; Leverkusen may not have made the best of starts in the Bundesliga, but Roger Schmidt’s side, spearheaded by former Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez, are a dangerous side when they click into gear.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by lcfcian1