To say it has been a regular week for Leicester would be a massive understatement. The Foxes fell to Liverpool in a 4-1 loss last Saturday in a match that did not demonstrate their best football so far this season.
How did they follow it up?
Claudio Ranieri’s side gave a near perfect performance in their Champions League debut with 3-0 win over Club Brugge.
It has been a week of varying emotions, and as always, it brings new things forward for us to consider. Here’s a few.
Speed (and a high back line) Kills
This is not a new concept or ground-breaking revelation. There are plenty of opportunities to see this combination lead to goals for or against a team. Unfortunately for us, we were reminded of these circumstances twice this past weekend against the Reds. Goals in the 31st minute by Sadio Mané and 89th minute by Roberto Firmino served as these reminders, as both times a quality pass led to an opportunity and ultimately a goal for the Reds.
While it is an isolated occurrence in one match, it still stands out when considering what the Leicester defense has done so well in the past year. The back line has been exceptional at staying home, forcing the opposition to play out wide and send balls into the box. At that point, Huth and Morgan would clear it out. It was combination that many teams found frustrating to break down.
It is important to recognize that a major part of what allowed the back line to stay in place is missing this season – N’Golo Kanté. His ability to cover the all the space from box-to-box provided the freedom to play in this manner. Without that coverage, the back line has been forced to creep higher up the pitch. Danny Drinkwater is a fantastic all around midfielder, but does not quite fit that role for the Foxes that Kanté provided. Perhaps Daniel Amartey can continue to develop and grow into this task, but likely we are going to be looking at a higher line being played for the time being.
It is only one match, and there is no reason to say that this is going to continue to be a thorn in the Foxes side. That said - it is something to keep an eye on to see if this scenario continues to play out.
Mahrez in the Spotlight
Big moments call for big players. Riyad Mahrez certainly adopted that mantra last night in his play against the Belgian Champions. Mahrez has not yet found that dynamic form that we have come to expect from him so far this season, but last night something seemed to change. He looked more to the magician we know him to be – showing intricate footwork, blistering pace and curling a beautiful ball into the back of the net off a free kick for the Foxes second goal of the night. He followed this up by scoring from the penalty spot in the second half after Jamie Vardy was fouled in the box.
Mahrez looked inspired last night, and you have to be pleased to see him find his form. According to Claudio Ranieri after the match it was the Champions League theme song that awoke him. If that is the case, let me be the first to volunteer to be standing pitch-side for every match the remainder of the season with a boom box blaring the Champions League theme song. The magic will certainly follow.
An Important Match
This win was a massive match in the history of Leicester City Football Club. There is no doubt about that. It will stay in the memories of Foxes supporters for a long time to come. To be completely honest, I still had a sense of disbelief that what I saw on the screen was happening. That was Leicester City on the pitch with Champions League patches on their sleeves, playing the champions of Belgium in an actual Champions League match. It was a beautiful moment.
Not only was this a beautiful moment in the of club's history in the long term, but I think this result was crucial in the short term in relation to this season. Having just been thumped by the Reds over the weekend, it is not unimaginable to conceive that the confidence of the Foxes might have been a bit damaged. However, as we all know, they looked like the confident, determined and organized side we know so well. It was a brilliant response following Saturday’s debacle, and yet another reminder of the special moments this side can create.
Is it just me, or is anyone else already counting down to Saturday?
Up Next: Leicester City return the KP Stadium to take on Burnley on Saturday.