Leicester City’s Premier League triumph in the 2015-16 season must rank as one of football’s greatest shocks. What Claudio Ranieri, who is no longer in charge at Leicester, and his players achieved may even rank as the greatest triumph in all sports.
A thorough search would likely yield nothing if it were designed to find a single person back in August 2015 who firmly believed the Foxes would end up winning the EPL title at the end of the campaign. Fast forward to April 17th, 2017 and Leicester’s players are preparing to face Spain’s Atletico Madrid in the return leg of the Champions League quarter-finals.
To completely write-off Leicester’s chances of reaching the semi-final might be a decision fans of the beautiful game would take at their own peril. In fact, Atletico arrive in Leicester carrying a slender 1-0 lead courtesy of a penalty-kick from the club’s top scorer Antoine Griezmann. Leicester held on for what can be referred to as a decent result and might have even escaped with a draw were not for that penalty-kick. A 2-0 win for the Foxes carries them to the semi-final while a 1-0 lead after full-time will force extra-time and potentially a penalty shoot-out.
It is remarkable how Leicester have managed to not only make the Round of 16 but also eliminate Spanish side Sevilla. Therefore, to rule out Leicester would be a mistake because the Foxes have proven the critics wrong time and again. Leicester do have the ability to create and score with Riyad Mahrez still on the squad. Mahrez was one of the main architects behind the EPL triumph and though his numbers have fallen considerably during the 2016-17, he is still capable of conjuring a moment of magic. Leicester also have Jamie Vardy in attack, though like Mahrez his stats show a steep decline in scoring this season.
Realistically, Atletico pose a much bigger obstacle than compatriots Sevilla because the Madrid side possesses one of the best defensive lines not just in Spain but the world. Atletico’s two goalkeepers, the defenders and the team as a whole have combined to present the club with the best defensive record in La liga.
The likes of Diego Godin and Filipe Luis have the necessary experience and know-how to deal with the best strikers in the world. Diego Simeone’s men participated in two of the last three Champions League finals and therefore are accustomed to dealing with the best in the world.
This will be Leicester’s first attempt at reaching the semi-final but perhaps that will be enough to not only motivate the players but also make the Foxes play with nothing to lose. Will the Spanish side become Leicester’s latest victim, or will Simeone’s men put an end to another improbably run by the English team?