As of February 21st Leicester City stand, incredibly but unsurprisingly, top of the Barclaycard Premiership. Their clean, crisps and aggressive style of play as seen them take the Premier League by storm losing only three times this season to Arsenal home and away and Liverpool. Leicester are currently the league leaders with two points to spare from second place Tottenham, but only goal difference separates Spurs from Arsenal. This means should they hold their impressive spot at the top of the Premiership, not only would they be crowned the champions of the league, but it would earn them automatic qualification to the UEFA Champions League, one of Europe’s most prestigious tournament. Even if the Foxes would slip to fourth with their remaining last 12 games, they would enter the Preliminary qualifying stages, but let’s face it, if Leicester can dominate Champions league regulars such as Chelsea and Manchester City, they can topple fellow qualifying teams from the likes of Denmark’s Superligaen, Georgia’s Umaglesi Liga and Latvias’s Virsliga.
The blues this year have set the world of fire and football fans wild with the way the play with such speed and attack with such flair. This has bought the world’s attention to Mr Jamie Vardy and also Mr Riyad Mahrez. Two players who are currently lighting up the Barclays Premier League for all the right reasons. Vardy has broken the record for the most goals scored consecutively in the Premier ship and he is currently the league’s top scorer. He is an absolute goal machine with bags of pace. In the Midfield we have Mahrez who is blessed with the touch of a saint, creates space and has the footwork of a wizard. The sky is the limit for all of the Leicester players and current manager Claudio Ranieri recently described them as ‘one of the hungriest teams he has ever seen’. The sheer desire and hunger for winning has driven them to the top, and there’s no stopping there if they are to make UEFA Champions League Finals. They would be put to the test up against the world’s greatest teams and the world’s biggest elite of players. The old cliché saying ‘can they do it on a cold, wet Tuesday night at Stoke’ is now more along the lines of ‘can they do it on a froze, snowy night in St Petersburg’ or a ‘mild, humid night in Madrid’.
They do boast a young team of great passion and desire to succeed as only last season they finished 14th involved in a dog fight to scrap out of the relegation zone after being bottom of the table for almost half of the season. Half way through the season they saw a poor run of form and tensions mounting with the board and the manager Nigel Pearson. They managed to win 7 out of 9 of their last remaining games and saw them escape relegation, however Nigel Pearson would be sacked following a racist incident involving his son on a pre-season tour of Thailand, as the owners of the club are indeed Thai. In came Claudio Ranieri who formerly managed Chelsea and also some of Europe’s most glamorous teams. He had just finished a four game stint at International side Greece, however he didn’t win a single game and managed to lose to one of the lowest ranked sides in the world, the Faroe Islands. The Italian signed a 3 year deal at the King Power Stadium and started brightly with a 4-2 win against Sunderland. Before we even got the chance to mention that they were 5000/1 favourites to win at the start of the season they were soon sat right there up the top adding win after win to their league form, but the scary thing was, they never showed any signs of stopping, and indeed they haven’t. With only three losses this year and still sitting two points clear, it is really only Tottenham and Arsenal who are chasing for the league, but even if the Premiership title doesn’t have their name on it, one thing is certain with the way this hungry team are performing, they will feature in the final group stages of the UEFA Champions League, which at the start of the season still felt like a dream.
The winner of the League Cup (or Capital One Cup) can qualify for the UEFA Europa League if they win the final, however if the opposing finalist also manage to quality for a European place then the spot falls to the finalist, but Leicester were knocked out in the fourth round to Championship opposition Hull City after a penalty shoot-out. The same rule applies to the FA Cup with regards to qualifying for the Europa League, but then again, entry to this tournament just wasn’t meant to be as they were eliminated by Tottenham after they won the replay 2-0 at the King Power Stadium after a draw at White Hart Lane. Not to worry as the Champions League is in sight, almost touching distance with only 12 games left and also with the Foxes facing the bottom 8 in the table as well. So who could Leicester face in the group stage? One thing for sure is they feature the world’s fastest, smartest and downright best players in the world. Another fact is they won’t be short of any support as they will be spurred on by many travelling fans making the most of this unique and unbelievable opportunity to follow the Blues across Europe. Leicester have the base of a good solid and settled team with a great talent between the sticks in Kasper Schmeichel , a commanding defence which features Captain Wes Morgan, Robert Huth and Danny Simpson, a midfield full of flair involving Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante and Gokhan Inler, and ruthless Goal Scorers in Shinji Okazaki, Argentine Jose Leonardo Ulloa and the one and only Jamie Vardy. Teams from all over Europe would and in fact should be fearing this young and organized outfit as they really don’t fear anyone else. Whether you are Real Madrid , Paris Saint Germain or even Cypriot giant APEOL Nicosia, Leicester city will have a game plan and come at you with everything and give everything to win regardless of your history or wealth, and 100% credit to them this season. Preparation will be key for Ranieri’s men, a good pre-season under their belts facing some top sides in some high tech training facilities will prove a wealth of good for the Midlanders. Also with the thought of playing top flight football and also appearing in one the worlds’ most prestigious tournaments, they could interest some bright stars of the footballing world to aid in their Champions League Campaign.