After making history last year with an incredible Premier League win, Leicester City are looking to repeat the feat in the Champions League. But how far can they go?
It all started with a “Dilly Ding, Dilly Dong”, when Claudio Ranieri proudly announced Leicester City had qualified for this year’s Champions League. The title race was still on, and at that point the 5000-1 miracle of winning the Premier League had not been completed yet. Champions League football was already an achievement to celebrate.
Almost a year later, a lot of things have changed in the world of Leicester, as there is no Ranieri to say “Dilly Ding” anymore, but there is still Europe’s top club competition. Incredibly, the Foxes are in the quarter-finals, and on top of that, they’re the only English club left. No Arsenal. No Manchester City. No Tottenham. And all of this in a season of turmoil whilst fighting to avoid relegation in the Premier League.
The feeling was there at the beginning of the season that the Foxes would struggle in the Premier League – and certainly not repeat last season’s result – but could be a big surprise in the Champions League, with the enthusiasm of being beginners and the strength of a team that has nothing to lose.
Seven months later, Leicester have fulfilled their role as surprise, and can be a difficult team for anyone to play against from now onwards. Although many teams will say they want to Leicester in the quarter-final draw, there will be secret fears.
So what goals can Leicester reach? This is the key question now, and a resemblance with Chelsea back in 2012 (who then became Champions of Europe) can be seen. Craig Shakespeare – who replaced Ranieri – picked up an English club having a bad time, in between the two round of 16 ties and having lost the first they then qualified. Like Chelsea.
So Leicester City could go all the way. There is one difference, though. Whereas everyone agreed on getting rid of André Villas Boas from Chelsea five years back, the sacking of Ranieri came as unexpected by most. Apart from the Foxes players, who seemed revitalised from the change of manager. A fact that fuels speculation that it was the players themselves who wanted Ranieri to go.
Not the nicest thing to do to the manager who created the miracle. But this is football. And without Ranieri the Foxes are showing the same spirit as last season, rediscovering a rock solid defence and a quick attack.
Just a reminder that it is the players, after all, and not the managers who are on the pitch. Nonetheless, this is in many ways an achievement to be given to Ranieri, who created this team. A team that now could really embrace the role as a surprise and find its route to Cardiff.