After Beating Club Brugge 2-1 at home, Leicester City sealed their place in the last 16 of the Champions League this week – progressing top of their group. The team ranked 5,000-1 outsiders to win the Premier League barely 12 months ago will now join the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain in the knockout stage of Europe’s elite football club competition.
Shinji Okazaki’s goal and Riyad Mahrez’s penalty in the first half established Leicester’s advantage in a huge night for the former minnow, and although Club Brugge’s showed some fight, the home side held off a late onslaught from the Belgian champions.
Leicester City had not won a game in Europe since 1961 before the start of this season, yet they have progressed with a game to spare will now be among the top seeds when it comes to the draw for the knockout stage.
Ironically, the club’s European success is in stark contrast to their Premier League title defense. With very limited resources at hand, manager Claudio Ranieri has lacked the depth of squad to compete in two major competitions at the same time.
It is therefore no surprise that Leicester has lost four of their five Premier League games played the weekend before a Champions League match this season. They suffered a heavy 4-1 defeat against Liverpool before their previous clash with Club Brugge, while another shocker against Manchester United preceded their second win over FC Porto in Europe. Chelsea and Watford have also condemned them to defeats in performances that suggest the Foxes have made a clear decision to put the Champions League at the top of their list of priorities.
Unless they go all the way and actually win the Champions League this year, Leicester City seem unlikely to return next year given they are now13 points behind fourth-placed Arsenal. Ultimately, this European adventure may become a one-off European fairytale.