|Where has LCFC's spirit gone this season?|
Having lost seven games out of their last 12 games in all competitions, and only won three from that same number, Leicester have dropped from sitting comfortably inside the Premier League top ten, to 16th position and facing the likelihood of relegation. They were also cheaply knocked out of the FA Cup over the weekend by League One side Millwall.
Tonight, they head into the final 16 of the UEFA Champions League against Sevilla FC at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium. While the Champions League has been a happy hunting ground for The Foxes, having topped their group and conceded only one goal in six games, their opponents in Spain present a formidable challenge.
|What awaits the Foxes in Sevilla, Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium|
Sevilla sit third on the La Liga ladder, having won 15 from 23 games and lost only four. They have developed further under new Argentinean coach Jorge Sampaoli this season and look well-placed to achieve their best La Liga finish in over a decade. Basically, they are in red-hot form.
Further compounding the difficulty of the task on Leicester’s hands is the fact Sevilla have form in big matches. Brilliant form, in fact. Europa League champions for the last three years running, Sevilla are used to playing under the bright lights and know how to strike and make it count.
The Foxes only have to look at how Liverpool were destroyed in the Europa League Final in Basel, Switzerland last year. Up by a goal after just 35 minutes, Liverpool looked set to go on and take the title that they had been building towards with some impressive victories throughout the tournament. The Reds knocked off Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Villareal before making the final and were carrying serious momentum. Sevilla had other ideas though, and cut Liverpool to pieces in the second half to take the title 3-1 winners.
So with Leicester competing so poorly in recent times, do they have any chance against SFC? The odds would suggest not.
Around 42,500 fans will cram into the Nervión ground tonight, and around 40,000 of them will be wearing red, white and yellow. Crucially, however, about 2,500 will not be.
|Foxes' fans at Etihad Stadium against Manchester City in 2016.|
And that is wear Leicester City must draw their inspiration from tonight. They can look at nothing else. Two-and-a-half-thousand’ of their fans will have made a 23-hour drive, 30-hour train trip, or 3-hour flight from the East Midlands to Spain, and they will be going there carrying something Claudio Ranieri’s side hast lost this season. Something they built their history-making campaign on last season – Fearlessness.
The fans carry belief. They carry hope. They carry determination. They carry the flag of the Fox. They carry what the players so desperately need to regain; a fighting spirit.
Not since their relegation escape of 2014/15 have Leicester’s backs been more up against the wall. Not since their dreams of 2015/16 became a chance have they needed to step-up to the plate more.
That is why Claudio Ranieri must ‘roll the dice’ in the south-west of Spain tonight and go all-out for a victory. Make no mistake, Leicester City cannot return to the King Power in three weeks with a goal deficit. A draw at least, will put them in prime position to push for the Champions League final 8, while a win could potentially inspire a late season survival charge.
Yes, Leicester lost their linchpin and in hindsight the key to their success in N'Golo Kanté at the start of this season, but he isn’t the reason they lost all the qualities that made them irresistible in 2015/16. That comes from within; within the team and within each individual.
|Can Leicester recapture the spirit that led them to a maiden Premier League title?|
Spearheading that group of individuals is none other than Jamie Vardy. His work ethic and determination tonight will be a signifier of what the team’s mentality and approach is.He optimizes the fight in The Foxes, and he, along with the rest of the team, owe a barnstorming and committed performance to those 2,500 fans at the ground tonight. They must have a take-no-prisoners approach, they’re not in Sevilla to make friends.
"Anything short of a ruthless, greyhound-like effort from Vardy in Spain tonight will be unacceptable."
The odds are against them, but they were against them once before too.