The Foxes head to the Vicente Calderon Stadium to take on Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final
After losing 2-1 to Sevilla in the first leg of the last round, Leicester’s remarkable run in Europe this season looked to be over. That result cost manager Claudio Ranieri his job and much speculation on whether he’d lost the dressing with the players under performing. Since Craig Shakespeare took over the Foxes have undergone a resurgence. They won five Premier League matches on the bounce and beat Sevilla 2-0 in the second leg at the King Power to make it to the quarter-finals.
Now that they appear to be playing like they were a year ago, Leicester have got themselves to a comfortable 11th in the Premier League, a far cry from being one point above the relegation zone at the time of Ranieri’s sacking. Champions League prioritisation saw league results suffer earlier this season, but with some breathing room domestically Leicester can attack this game. They lost 4-2 to an Everton side in good form last weekend, but Shakespeare rested a handful of players with the clash against Atletico in mind. This will be the biggest test for the new manager so far, as their opposition have built a reputation as Champions League specialists.
Atletico Madrid have been Champions League finalists twice in the last three years, losing on both occasions to rivals Real Madrid. The two clashed in La Liga at the weekend and drew 1-1, and it’s too many draws this season that leave Atletico in 3rd and 10 points off leaders Real who have a game in hand. Out of the league title race Diego Simeone’s men can fully focus on this competition, where they’ve produced some of their best football. They have arguably one of the best defences in the world right now and have kept a clean sheet in six of their eight Champions League games this season, including a 1-0 win over Bayern Munich in the group stage. In La Liga they’ve conceded the joint fewest goals alongside Villarreal and can make it difficult for Leicester to get on the score sheet.
Going forward Antoine Griezmann will be the biggest threat that Leicester must deal with. The Frenchman has scored 23 goals in all competitions for Atletico this season, he’s netted six in his last eight appearances for the club. Leicester will be without captain Wes Morgan who picked up an injury in the second leg against Sevilla.
Not many believed Leicester would make it this far in the competition and their underdog status can alleviate some pressure. But Atletico look like they’ll get the job done and the Foxes could have work to do in the second leg next week.