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Leicester City vs Atletico Madrid: Lessons learned from the first leg

There’s a lot the team can take from this one

Club Atletico de Madrid v Leicester City - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: First Leg Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

As far as losses go, this one, a 1-0 loss away to Atlético Madrid, probably wasn't quite as morale boosting as the first leg against Sevilla, nor did it net us an away goal, but it was probably a decent result nonetheless. It stings, of course, because the only goal came from a penalty that shouldn’t have been, but when the Foxes pick themselves up and look for ways to overcome the deficit, they’ll find there was plenty to learn from the game.

1) We absolutely can mix it with the big boys

As much as the late goal against Sevilla gave us hope, it was hard to shake the feeling that only luck and a lack of second half effort from the hosts had stood between us and a heavy defeat. Leicester City have changed a lot since then, and this game was completely different. Atlético dominated at times and had the much bigger share of possession, but don’t most teams we play? Outside of the penalty they created few clear cut chances.

2) A way to slow down Griezmann

Much of the Spanish side’s supremacy in the first half came from the work of Griezmann, who consistently found space between the Foxes’ two defensive lines. Andy King’s half time introduction, and more importantly moving Ndidi into a position covering the back four, seemed to take away his space. He was still dangerous because he’s an excellent player, but he couldn’t play the game he wanted. I wouldn't be surprised to see a similar formation for the second leg.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Leicester City - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: First Leg
He’s so friendly though!
Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

3) Vardy can’t do it alone

Here’s the downside to point two. Atlético started the game with a surprisingly high back line, and one good ball over the top was all it took to change that. If you force a change in approach you must be doing something right, but from then on, even with Shinji out there, Vardy was left to plow a very lonely furrow in the opposition half.

Really really lonely. And that was before we switched to five in midfield, after which life became pretty simple for the opposing CBs. If we’re going to beat them, Vardy needs more support, someone somewhere near him. Maybe that’s Gray coming in for Albrighton, maybe we go all in and start Slimani, it could just be a better performance by Mahrez, but it’s got to be something different.

4) Wes Morgan’s back just became very important

You’d never have guessed that was Benalouane’s first Champions League game. He started a little shaky, as they all did, but by the end had grown into a fine performance. The problem is now, someone had to play alongside him. Robert Huth’s yellow card rules him out, Marcin Wasilewski isn’t in the squad and Daniel Amartey hasn't played the position for Leicester. That just leaves Captain Morgan. A miracle recovery would be great right now.

Leicester City v Sevilla FC - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
Wes...are you there, Wes?!
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

5) We can absolutely do this

With a 1-0 in the home tie, you’d have to consider Madrid favourites. But then, weren’t they that as soon as the teams were drawn? And I’m not saying we should necessarily expect them to turn it around, either.

But it would also be some way off the least likely feats this team has achieved. Two years ago everyone thought we’d be relegated, one year ago there was no way we’d hold on to win the league, a month ago everyone thought we’d be relegated (again) and at half time against Sevilla we were as good as out in the last 16.

It’s not likely we’ll win, but it never has been before and that never stopped us (unless you count our first 131 years of existence, but frankly we were just warming up then).