Leicester City ripped up the form book and elbowed past typical Premier League heavyweights last season to defy bookies and sceptics alike, and who would dare suggest they won’t do it again but this time in Europe?
Earlier this year in May, bookies had Claudio Ranieri’s side at 100/1 to lift the trophy, but those odds have since come in as short at 25-1 with one bookmaker after winning their third straight group game against Copenhagen on Tuesday night.
After their phenomenal win last season, who is to say they won’t pull it off again in this year’s Champions League?
In an interview with Gary Lineker on The Premier League show, the Crystal Palace boss, Alan Pardew, said Leicester City winning the title last season was “astonishing” and “embarrassed the top clubs in the Premier League.”
He said he believes that they’ve put pressure on managers, who have responded by splashing the cash over the summer. He said: “Look what the top clubs have done, this is the problem now. They’ve all gone ‘we’re all a bit embarrassed here, let’s go and get the best manager we can and throw some money at him and make sure it never happens again.”
He also revealed that he was rooting for Leicester to win the title. And there’s reason to believe they do it again this season. Unlike teams such as Manchester City, Tottenham and Arsenal, who will be juggling both Premier League title aspirations and Champions League ambitions, Leicester can focus on the competition without the title chase conundrum – meaning they can throw their whole lot in Europe.
So far, they have picked up eight points from the opening eight games which is one more than they did over the course of last season.
Trying to irritate supporters at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday night, Copenhagen fans sang that Leicester were “not famous anymore”, and to be fair in Europe and in the Champions League they never really have been. But this could work to their advantage.
Their victory saw that Leicester become only the fifth competition debutants in Champions League history (after AC Milan, Paris St-Germain, Juventus and Malaga) to win their three opening games. And – as they proved last season – when they are on that kind of roll they can be unstoppable.
Another majoring factor that proves the Leicester have the potential to go far is their record signing Islam Slimani, AKA the Dragon Slayer. Not only has he strengthened their attacking prowess and taken some of the pressure off Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy’s shoulders, but he has proven to be lethal in the air and a real workhorse.
He lived up to his name with the winner against Porto last month as well as having progressed year on year and has a big-game temperament.
People also tend to underrate Leicester when it comes to knockout football. Once they make it to the knockout stages they have a team which is perfectly suited to the challenge. They remain highly tuned at breaking quickly, staying compact in defend and grabbing a goal (or two) even if and when they are on the back foot. Even if it hasn’t been evident as much in the Premier League so far.
Leicester fans have also shown everyone a thing or two about showing the Champions League some respect. They thrived under the floodlights as the King Power stadium made its European bow for the first visit of Porto last month. Players have been feeding off the energy of supporters, which could just make all the difference as they progress in the competition.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Alex Hannam.