Channel Europe form into EPL, says Ranieri

Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez (No. 26) scoring the only goal of the Champions League match against FC Copenhagen at the King Power Stadium.
Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez (No. 26) scoring the only goal of the Champions League match against FC Copenhagen at the King Power Stadium.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Unbeaten Champions League record at odds with Foxes' faltering title defence at home

LEICESTER • Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has urged his side to take their fine European form into the English Premier League after they closed in on a place in the Champions League last 16.

Riyad Mahrez's goal earned Leicester a 1-0 win over FC Copenhagen on Tuesday, extending their 100 per cent record in Group G and leaving them one win away from the knockout phase.

But it is a different story in the Premier League, where the English champions have lost four of their opening eight fixtures and conceded 14 goals in the process, leaving them 13th in the table.

They play Crystal Palace at home on Saturday and Ranieri wants his players to alter their psychological approach to domestic matches.

"From one side, I'm very proud," said the manager as he reflected on a third successive Champions League win without conceding a goal.

"From the other side, when I think of the Premier League, I'm very, very angry. But it's OK because in my career this has happened.

  • Leicester are the fifth team to win their first three Champions League games, after AC Milan (1992-93), Paris Saint-Germain (1994-95), Juventus (1995-96) and Malaga (2012-13).

    The Foxes are also the first English team for seven seasons to win their opening three games without conceding a goal (Chelsea last achieved this feat in 2009-10).

    They have one more point in the Champions League than they do in the Premier League (8).

    3

    Jamie Vardy's goals this season for Leicester. He had 11 at this stage last season.

"When for the first time you play in a big competition, you lose something when you go back in your league. This is normal but we want to change this way. It's just psychological.

"When you are playing in the Champions League, your mind is more concentrated, you are more focused on the match. But now our goal is to change our concentration in the Premier League. The Premier League is our priority."

It was a performance in keeping with Leicester's 5,000-1 league title success last season, with Copenhagen getting 54 per cent of possession and registering four shots on target to the hosts' two.

But Leicester's 100 per cent record was only preserved thanks to a last-minute save by their Copenhagen-born goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who batted away a close-range Andreas Cornelius shot.

Leicester are now assured of at least a place in the Europa League and they can seal a place in the Champions League last 16 if they win the return fixture in Copenhagen on Nov 2.

"It's good to go in the Europa League. Now we have to go (further) in the Champions League," Ranieri added.

"Little step, step by step."

Danish champions Copenhagen remain in second place in the group, five points below Leicester.

"Leicester come on Nov 2. Hopefully we can do a similar performance," Copenhagen coach Stale Solbakken said.

"We have our fans behind us and maybe that can be the difference. We very rarely lose in Parken (Stadium)."

The Danes are also facing disciplinary proceedings after their fans lit up a corner of Leicester's King Power Stadium with pyrotechnics during the match.

European football's governing body Uefa said in a statement that Copenhagen had been charged with "setting off of fireworks" and the case would be dealt with on Nov 17.

Leicester, on the other hand, were not charged.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline 'Channel Europe form into EPL, says Ranieri'. Print Edition | Subscribe