Leicester City’s euphoric year has taken a downturn in the Premier League due to their poor start to the defence of their top-flight crown. However, their fire has been stoked in their first venture into the Champions League where they have displayed their flawless form of the 2015-16 campaign.
The Foxes have won all three of their contests in Group G, taking the scalp of Porto in their second game with an impressive performance at the King Power Stadium. Meanwhile, Club Brugge and FC Copenhagen were brushed aside with relative ease to put Claudio Ranieri’s men on the brink of qualifying for the next phase of the tournament.
As a result of their dominance, Leicester are backed in the latest Bet365 Champions League betting odds at 1/8 to go through to the first knockout round as Group G winners. Ranieri’s side need only a win against Copenhagen and for Porto to fail to take three points from their clash with Brugge to advance in the next round of matches.
The club’s form in Europe’s elite competition has been a pleasant distraction from their performances in the Premier League where they have been brought back down to earth following their outstanding run to the title last term. The Foxes have broken Chelsea’s year-old record of enduring the worst start to a defence of the crown, taking just eight points from their opening eight matches.
Leicester’s defence that was so reliable last season has fallen apart against the better teams in the division, conceding four goals apiece to Liverpool and Manchester United, and a further three against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. All of their defeats have come on their travels, and although their home form has been solid enough, their away performances will still worry Ranieri.
In complete contrast the Foxes have not conceded a goal in their three Champions League matches, although they have been indebted to fine saves from Kasper Schmeichel in their last two fixtures for keeping the opposition at bay. The Italian boss will be hopeful that confidence can be gained and maintained from their displays on the continent, although the extra toil on their ageing centre-backs Wes Morgan and Robert Huth could explain their lapses in the Premier League.
Riyad Mahrez has picked up where he left off last term, thriving in the Champions League, notching a brace against Brugge and the decisive goal in their win over Copenhagen. The Algerian has the ability to take apart any team on his day as Manchester City found out in the Foxes’ triumph at the Etihad Stadium last season. With him on song, Leicester could well stun a team or two in the latter stages of the competition to push them into the lofty heights of the last eight.
Whereas Mahrez has continued his excellent play, Jamie Vardy has struggled to get going. The England international has failed to hit the back of the net in Europe’s elite competition, while he has also scored just two goals in the Premier League in eight appearances. The 29-year-old has gone eight matches without hitting the target, which has made Leicester’s form in the Champions League even more impressive and somewhat explains their slump in the top flight.
Leicester will need him to find his peak form to have a chance to reaching the latter stages of the competition along with nudging them up the Premier League table. They’ve given themselves a strong chance of making history, but at the same time they cannot afford to take their eye of their exploits in England’s top flight. Another interesting six months awaits at the King Power Stadium.