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Leicester City continued to make waves in Europe, as they defeated Spanish club Sevilla 2-0, at the King Power Stadium, on Tuesday night, to progress to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League 2016/17.
The Foxes had lost the first leg of the tie 2-1, back in Seville, but managed to rally back and produce a comeback against Jorge Sampaoli’s side, with goals from captain Wes Morgan and Marc Albrighton on either side of half-time.
Leicester have struggled badly in the Premier League this season, following their surprise league victory last year. Embroiled in the relegation battle, the Foxes owners decided to part ways with manager Claudio Ranieri not so long ago. While it may seem too far-fetched at this point and improbable for Leicester to win the Champions League, Leicester have shown they are capable of causing upsets and here are three reasons why they could go all the way in Europe’s premier football event:
Leicester have been finding it hard to find their mojo this term, after surprising everyone last year. However, they have been performing beyond expectations in Europe. They finished as the table-toppers in their group which had the likes of FC Porto, FC Copenhagen and Club Brugge. With just one loss from six games in the group stage, they are now into the final eight of the competition.
Even the most passionate of Foxes supporters wouldn’t have envisaged them making it to the quarterfinals of the Champions League and yet, here they are. Contrary to their dour and uninspiring displays in the league, Leicester have managed to step it up at the continental level. Given their recent upturn in form domestically as well, they have the momentum on their side. The immense self-belief and the confidence that saw them triumph in the English top-flight last time around may have gone missing in league games, but it is visible in European ties and this could take them quite a long way in the competition.
Ever since former assistant Craig Shakespeare took over the reins at King Power Stadium, there has been a turnaround in fortunes for the Foxes.
Under Claudio Ranieri, the team found themselves in shambles this season. There were reports about disgruntled squad members and there were speculations about a tiff between the Italian and his support staff – mainly Shakespeare. But now, there is a sense of new-found belief. The players are looking reinvigorated and the confidence seems to be back. Things are starting to click for them again. Just three games would be too soon to judge the new manager, but the manner in which Leicester have gone about since the change in regime, it surely shows some encouraging signs.
From playing for smaller clubs like Bury and Notts County to rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest teams in Europe, and managing to stand out with classy performances, Kasper Schmeichel has come a long way far in his career.
It takes a lot to stand out in this elite company with the likes of Manuel Neuer, Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon, but Kasper Schmeichel, in his first ever season in the Champions League, has arguably been the best goalkeeper in the competition. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that without him between the sticks, Leicester would never have made this far in Europe.
In the six European games that he has played this season, the 30-year old has kept a clean-sheet on five occasions. Amazing right? There’s more. In those six games, he has had 21 shots taken at him and he has managed to produce 19 saves, conceding just twice. Beat that! And two of those stops have come from the penalty spot, one of which came on Tuesday against Sevilla.
Schmeichel is someone who inspires confidence in his teammates. He is a commanding presence on the field, in the dressing room and is someone who the squad looks up to. The Danish international has played an immensely crucial role for Leicester so far in the competition and can lead them to glory come May, much like his father, the great Peter Schmeichel did with Manchester United, so many years ago. Surely, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.