On a sunny Sunday afternoon in April 2016, Leicester City ran out comfortable winners at the Stadium of Light against a Sunderland side which seemed certain to go down. Not only did this victory put them to within 3 victories of their first Premier League title, but it was on this day that Qualification for the Champions League was confirmed.
Fast forward 12 months and Leicester City are in the Quarter Finals against an Atletico Madrid side who have reached 2 of the last 3 finals of the competition, following a superb comeback win against Sevilla in the Last 16 meant that they were the last English team remaining in the tournament, once again proving everybody in sport wrong.
Pundits and Presenters alike were doubting the credentials of the League Champions when going onto European football’s biggest stage, saying that we will find it tough and asking simply for us to ‘Not Embarrass the English Game’. A feat that Tottenham and Arsenal adequately filled following Spurs’ ‘Wembley Woe’s’ seeing them finish 3rd in their group, and then falling in the last 32 of the Europa League and Arsenals 10-2 aggregate drubbing to Bayern Munich.
Not only did Leicester not embarrass the English game, they have managed to restore faith and continue the fairy tale that has been Leicester City’s most recent spell in the top flight of the English Leagues. During their first ever season in the Champions League, Leicester have;
- Won all 4 of their Fixtures at home
- Kept 4 consecutive clean sheets (Becoming the first side ever to do so in their first 4 Champions League Games)
- Won their group
- Became the last remaining English side in the competition.
Being classed as an underdog works in Leicester’s favour, as it allows them to play with little to no pressure and puts all the onus onto their opposition, and the tie away at Atletico Madrid (12th April) will be no different.
This is one of the few games in which Leicester have previous European history with their opponents, following meetings in the 1961/62 & 1997/98 campaigns, both resulting in a Madrid victory, but as the old saying goes, “Third time’s the charm”.
Despite a poor domestic campaign prior to Ranieri’s departure, Leicester have performed time and time again on the European stage, with only 1 slip following a much changed side travelled to Porto with the group title already secured, and with Jamie Vardy back in and amongst the goals, Kasper Schmiechel fast growing into one of the best goalkeepers in the league, Wilfried N’Didi proving why he was chosen as a replacement for the incredible N’Golo Kante and Craig Shakespeare getting us back to playing the way that saw us not only achieve the ‘Great Escape’ but won us the league just 1 year after, anything is possible and if any team are going to defy the odds, you’d put money on it being Leicester.
Now as a Leicester fan, I’m not expectant to win the tournament, I was simply over the moon we didn’t prove the pundits right and have a failure of a campaign. This is what you live for in football, and It has simply been incredible to watch a side that I watched play sides such as Cheltenham, Yeovil and Hereford less than 10 years ago now go toe to toe with some of the best that Europe has to offer.
It has been a few seasons that you never expect to see as a fan, and for now I for one am certainly just enjoying the ride. No matter the result this evening, should we get an away goal I will forever feel confident that we can once again produce the magic on Filbert Way in the 2nd leg.
This club is no Embarrassment.