Future looks bright for Leicester as Foxes show signs of balancing European and domestic concerns

 
Trevor Steven
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Leicester City FC v FC Porto - UEFA Champions League
Leicester have enjoyed a superb first season in the Champions League (Source: Getty)

Leicester have had to swallow a dose of reality this season following their fairytale title success, with domestic results not matching their fantastic European performances, but I think there is every reason for the Foxes to look forward with excitement to what is coming next.

First, they have a chance to clinch a place in the Champions League last 16 against Copenhagen on Wednesday night.

Their group may not be the hardest – it’s pretty much what they would have hand-picked and I’d have backed them to beat the Danes and Club Brugge – but beating Porto was a great result and this has been a brilliant debut in the competition.

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So good has their European form been, in fact, that it has amplified the drop-off in the Premier League, where they have already lost more games than they did last term.

There are good reasons for that, however.

For a start, last year was a one-off. Vital momentum was already with Leicester by the time other teams woke up to Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante and their possession-sacrificing, counter-attacking prowess.

This time, domestic rivals know what they’re about.

The subconscious effect

I don’t think Leicester are showing any shortage of effort in the Premier League, and nor do I believe Claudio Ranieri will have told them to prioritise European games.

But it might be happening subconsciously.

Any player will tell you that playing in the Champions League, along with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona, is the dream.

I recently watched an interview with Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen in which he talked about the adrenaline rush of being on the pitch and hearing the anthem.

Leicester players known they might never get into the Champions League again. This is their chance to make memories to tell their grandchildren.

It would be understandable if on some level they were more focused on Europe.

Despite some heavy defeats, their Premier League results haven’t actually been all that bad – they are one win off the top seven – and there is good reason to think that things are about to get better.

While some teams have tended to flag after Champions League fixtures, Leicester have taken seven points from a possible nine in the Premier League.

Instead it is in games before European nights that they have suffered, losing on three occasions.

Foxes finding the balance

The encouraging news is that I think they are adapting to the dual focus and toll of travelling and extra minutes.

They have started to pull their socks up domestically – they drew 1-1 at Spurs on Saturday – while still catching continental opponents unaware.

Ranieri will still hope Leicester can break back into the top six.

Hand on heart, I think eighth is a more likely finish but they will be excited about a forthcoming run of games against West Brom, Watford, Middlesbrough and Sunderland, that could propel them further up the table.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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