At the start of the season, Leicester City fans could hardly have imagined their side would take the Champions League by storm. The idea that the Premier League winners could be sucked towards a relegation battle would have seemed just as unlikely.
Both scenarios have come true.
Claudio Ranieri’s side host Belgium club Bruges on Tuesday needing only a draw to guarantee progress into the Champions League knockout rounds, having picked up 10 points from their opening four Group G games without conceding a goal.
Leicester have managed only two more points from 12 Premier League matches and Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Watford left them in 14th place, two points above the bottom three.
Italian Ranieri knows that once Champions League progress is achieved, turning around the club’s domestic form will be the priority. Otherwise his side could resume in Europe next year looking over their shoulders at home.
“I’m not happy but I’m very confident. I’m happy with the spirit and cohesion of the group but not with the results,” Ranieri told a news conference on Monday.
“Our focus is to now try to win tomorrow and then go back to the Premier League and try to improve our position. It’s too early to talk (about a relegation battle). But of course we must see behind us what is happening. But then last season I was watching behind us. I’m sure we will react well.”
Leicester will be without record signing Islam Slimani after he failed to recover from a groin problem. “Slimani is not ready yet. It is not 50-50, he is definitely out,” he said.
Keeper Kasper Schmeichel is still missing with a hand fracture.
Juventus forward Gonzalo Higuain will miss Tuesday’s match at Sevilla with a bruised thigh, the Serie A champions said on Monday.
Juventus, who need a win to qualify from Group H with a match to spare, said the Argentina forward sustained the injury during Saturday’s 3-0 league win over Pescara.
The Turin side will also be without defender Andrea Barzagli, winger Marko Pjaca and forward Paulo Dybala, who are out with long-term injuries. Defender Medhi Benatia has not recovered from a knock to his right knee and will also miss out.
Central defender Giorgio Chiellini, who has not played since limping off during the Serie A win over Napoli on Oct. 29, was included in the squad.