Leicester step-up to the plate but tougher trials await
After a dazzling season of seemingly endless highs last campaign, there has been little to shout about in contrast for Leicester fans so far in 2016/17. They have picked up a solitary win in their opening four league matches and are currently sitting just outside the relegation zone after being humbled 4-1 at Anfield by a ruthless Liverpool over the weekend.#
Though the club’s highlight of the season would undoubtedly be their role in the Champions League. The Foxes banished the early nerves that were expected of them to make a scintillating start to life amongst Europe’s elite. There will of course be better opposition, but bar an early scare when Jose Izquierdo found himself through on goal for the hosts only to poorly fire wide, Leicester played with an assurance more typical of a club seasoned in this competition.
When the lively Marc Albrighton poked the Foxes ahead after five minutes having capitalised on some poor defending, Leicester never looked back, and Brugge’s only other clear-cut chance came in the second-half, when the Colombian hit the foot of the post. By then, Mahrez’s dead ball brace had put the Premier League champions out of sight, and there were no signs of the visitors letting the occasion affect them, doing a professional job to put the Belgian champions to the sword ahead of their first real test at home to Porto in Matchday II. A lot of it was down to the early goal, which gave Leicester more of a licence to play their contain and counterattack game which they utilised to devastating effect so often in their march to the title last season. It has been their penchant to not play to that strength so far this season that is part of the reason why they have started so poorly.
However, Brugge are a side more in the mould of Leicester pedigree wise than a seasoned European contender. It was the first time they were featuring in the Champions League in over a decade, following their first top-flight Belgian title in 11 years. Although their other group opposition in FC Porto and FC Copenhagen are some way away from the best this tournament has to offer, they will provide sterner tests than the one they passed with flying colours in Brugge.
Porto will be the most formidable opponents for Leicester and are seasoned veterans in these parts, while Danish side Copenhagen are capable of an upset on home turf and signalled their intent with an impressive opening draw at the Estadio do Dragao against Porto on Wednesday. Leicester’s win has given them good headway early in the group, but there’s little room for complacency with Porto next up at the King Power, but the Foxes based on tonight’s showing can take a lot of confidence into the clash, and an equally professional performance will undoubtedly be necessary for the Foxes to flourish again. They have however made a statement of intent that they are not in Europe to merely make up the numbers, and they have every chance of progressing if they can continue in such a vein of form.