Leicester riding wave of European excitement

Leicester City are "going into the games excited rather than fearing them," said Marc Albrighton when asked about the club's fine European form, which contrasts sharply with their domestic struggles.

Unbeaten Leicester have won four of their five Group G matches
Unbeaten Leicester have won four of their five Group G matches ©AFP/Getty Images

The flash-interview area at Leicester City last Tuesday night was a place of smiles.

Where the focus of his pre-match press conference had been the club's poor domestic form, manager Claudio Ranieri could now reflect with satisfaction on seeing what he called "the normal Leicester" – a Leicester side writing another fairy tale after their historic qualification for the UEFA Champions League knockout stage.

The English champions had plugged into the energy of a vibrant home crowd to produce a first-half display against Club Brugge that was full of pace, intensity and movement – the very kind of performance that carried them to the Premier League title, but which they have failed to reproduce with the same regularity this term.

Christian Fuchs: Group G win is a dream come true
Christian Fuchs: Group G win is a dream come true

It is intriguing to observe how the tournament newcomers have sailed through Group G without losing, winning more games (four) than they have managed in 13 Premier League outings (three). Indeed, they have the worst domestic record of all 32 group-stage teams, so the question after their 2-1 success on matchday five was just how has the UEFA Champions League brought the best out of them?

The first factor is human nature. "Maybe we have a little more concentration," said Ranieri of his players' efforts in Europe. After climbing the mountain last season, the UEFA Champions League is their reward, and who can blame a group of hitherto unheralded players for investing something extra in this exciting new adventure?

Highlights: Leicester 2-1 Club Brugge
Highlights: Leicester 2-1 Club Brugge

As winger Marc Albrighton said: "It's hard not to be inspired. The lads here have been watching this competition with envy for years and years thinking we'd never get the chance to play in it, so now we are here, we are going to enjoy it and take in the lights, the music, the whole occasion."

It has been an entirely different story in the Premier League. "The Premier League teams are aware of us now," noted midfielder Andy King, whereas in the UEFA Champions League this is not the case.

There they have faced opponents whose slower build-up helps Leicester get into their defensive positions at a time when their domestic rivals are hitting them with quick attacks, while simultaneously denying them space to get in behind at the other end of the pitch. When Leicester struggled in the second half last Tuesday, it was when Brugge pushed higher up the field.

If that is a lesson for Leicester's next opposition, they might also want to start rehearsing defending crosses once the round of 16 draw is made. Leicester have some excellent crossers of a football – not least Christian Fuchs and Albrighton – and of their seven goals so far, their three open-play efforts have come from deliveries into the box and another from a long throw.

Claudio Ranieri and winger Marc Albrighton
Claudio Ranieri and winger Marc Albrighton©Getty Images

Before then, of course, the 14th-placed Foxes will turn their attention to scaling the Premier League table. The last Midlands club before Leicester to win the title – Aston Villa in 1981 – suffered a similar dip the next season, falling to 11th. They made amends by lifting the European Cup.

That may prove a step too far even for Ranieri's miracle men, but for now they can dream. "We are going into the games excited rather than fearing them," added Albrighton, "and hopefully we can cause more upsets."