Fantastic Foxes: How far can Leicester go in the Champions League?
Simon Sinclair | 28 November 2016
Leicester Champions League specials for stage of elimination
Leicester City’s incredible journey has been extended by their qualification for the last 16 stage of the Champions League.
The Foxes have reached the second phase of the competition, topping Group G after dropping just two points in their five fixtures to date, including their nail-biting win over Club Brugge.
However, the question ahead of Claudio Ranieri’s men is far how they can go in their European campaign. Could they defy the odds again and win the Champions League?
Leicester have already done a lot more than a fair few English teams in recent history by simply advancing beyond the group stage, but their odds of 33/1 suggest that winning the competition may be beyond them. But fear not, Coral have plenty of Leicester Champions League specials on stage of elimination odds…
Fantastic Foxes form on the continent
The Foxes’ form in the Champions League has been in stark contrast to their fortunes in the Premier League. The reigning champions have struggled to click into gear in the top-flight and sit only two points above the bottom three, prompting fears that the demands of European football could drag the club into a relegation battle.
As a result it was important that Leicester gave themselves as easier a fixture as possible in the last-16 phase. Strong performances against Porto, Club Brugge and Copenhagen proved that Ranieri’s men can cut it against quality players on the continent.
With that in mind, the Foxes are a fantastic 16/1 to be runners-up and fall at the final hurdle, or a more reasonable 10/3 to drop out at the quarter-final stage.
However, their last two outings against the Danish and Belgian outfits have been far from perfect, requiring resilience late in both contests to gain a draw and three points out of the two respective fixtures.
Due to the spirit of the Foxes they were able to close out both matches to win the group, but even with their first-place finish in the group they could still be handed an extremely difficult challenge. They will need all of their character forged in their relegation battle two years ago and their surge towards the Premier League title to have a chance to making a run deep into the competition.
Teams to Avoid
Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund are locked in a fierce battle to win Group F, and the second-place side emerging from that pool will be a challenge for any team in the competition. Although it could provide two memorable nights for the Foxes supporters, Ranieri will surely wish to avoid either of those sides in the last 16.
Arsenal and Paris-Saint Germain have a similar contest in Group A and, although Leicester won the crown last season the Gunners were the only team to do the double over them, while Unai Emery’s men are fully focused on European glory, having dominated Ligue 1 in recent history.
Worryingly for the Foxes (12/1 to be eliminated in the semi-final) both Manchester City and Bayern Munich are also placed in second. The two sides have not displayed their best form in the competition, despite City’s 3-1 victory over Barcelona at the Etihad Stadium. Carlo Ancelotti’s men are struggling by their high standards, losing twice in the group stage, while they are currently sitting behind RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga.
Bayern lost to Rostov in their last Champions League outing, and given their underwhelming form they could provide Leicester with an opportunity to take a huge scalp in the next round should Ranieri’s men play to the peak of their ability over two legs.
Leicester’s most favourable draw would be the side emerging from Group B or H, with six teams in the mix. Napoli, Benfica and Besitkas would present a good match-up for the Foxes given the competitive nature of the group, and as neither of those three sides contain star quality throughout their respective squads that could give Ranieri a chance to expose their weaknesses.
Benfica and Besiktas proved their quality and their flaws in their 3-3 draw at the Vodafone Arena, with the Portuguese outfit racing into a 3-0 lead, only for Senol Gunes’ men to come roaring back to claim a draw late in the contest. Either of those teams would present the best chance of progression for the Foxes, which could give Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez ample opportunities.
In Group H, Juventus are likely to be taken out of the equation as they should beat pointless Dinamo Zagreb in their final match, leaving either Sevilla or Lyon to advance. The Spanish side are playing delightful football at the moment in La Liga and need only a point to secure second place ahead of Lyon in their clash. A match-up between the Foxes and Jorge Sampaoli’s team would be extremely entertaining, and their defensive record would give Leicester a chance at staging a memorable upset.
Ranieri’s men have battled well in the competition thus far and, although they deserve their place in the last 16, the challenge could have been tougher and will only get harder in the future.
Given their Premier League form it might suit the club to put their efforts into securing their top-flight status before putting all their efforts in to what is likely a futile battle on the continent. So, punters can grab them at an odds-on price of 1/3 to be eliminated in the last 16.
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