Ranieri’s looking to the heavens. Are you?
Even the most non-religious Leicester fans are probably looking for divine intervention as the Foxes enter their biggest match in history on Wednesday in the Champions League Round of 16 against Sevilla at the lowest point of their season.
The euphoria of topping the group turned to optimism, and from skepticism came outright fear of getting blown out of Europe in epic fashion. And to make things tougher, we’re away. In Europe.
Three-time defending Europa League winners Sevilla decided to let another club win it this year as they set their sights on a bigger European prize. They’re third in La Liga — only three points behind Real Madrid (who they beat in January) -- and have only lost four times in 24 matches in Spain. Finishing as runners up in Group H and drawing the Foxes, Sevilla are most likely licking their lips even more than they were in December at the prospect of an easy tie.
It’s hard to doubt their confidence as Leicester’s fresh off their FA Cup loss to third-tier, 10-man Millwall to end their run in that competition. Unless Leicester can perform a magical turnaround to its season before Wednesday, Sevilla could end their run in the Champions League in 90 minutes.
Some Foxes fans might think that’s a good idea with their current Premier League form, but this is the Champions League. It’s been our bread and butter so far this season after topping our group and conceding only one goal in the process. You don’t take a dive in the biggest competition out there. This is the competition that teams all over Europe fight to be apart of, and humble old Leicester City is one of the last 16 teams remaining. Don’t lose sight of that reality despite how crap things are right now.
Despite losing top scorer Kevin Gameiro last season and other top players in midfielders Grzegorz Krychowiak and Ever Banega, Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli has kept the club at the heels of Real Madrid and Barcelona with possession play and the club’s biggest ever points total in the first half of a season. Stefan Jovetic has provided solid attack since arriving on loan from Inter Milan, and former Premier Leaguers Samir Nasri and Steven N’Zonzi have provided a solid core for the club.
Meanwhile, Leicester could be without record signing Islam Slimani due to a groin injury and the back-line has never looked more unsettled. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez need a big game to break their slumps if Leicester are going to have any say in this.
If the Leicester of old is out there, we could really use a return. As soon as possible, please.