Leicester take on Porto in first ever Champions League home game
Four months on from their astonishing 5,000-1 Premier League triumph, the stardust returns to Leicester City’s King Power Stadium in Tuesday’s first ever Champions League home game against Porto.football Updated: Sep 27, 2016 14:46 IST
Four months on from their astonishing 5,000-1 Premier League triumph, the stardust returns to Leicester City’s King Power Stadium in Tuesday’s first ever Champions League home game against Porto.
Leicester have made a faltering start to their title defence and after Saturday’s 4-1 loss at Manchester United, they have now lost as many league games -- three -- as in the entirety of last season.
But Claudio Ranieri’s men made a fine start to their maiden Champions League campaign, winning 3-0 at Club Brugge, and Tuesday’s game represents another new chapter in the club’s 132-year history.
“In Bruges it was a surreal feeling -- you walk out on a Champions League carpet, through a Champions League arch,” said winger Marc Albrighton, who scored Leicester’s opener in Belgium.
“It is something we are usually watching on TV and we are stood there all of a sudden and listening to that tune and going out to play in a Champions League game.
“It is surreal, but it makes you want more. It gives you that taste of it.
“We know it will be a fantastic occasion and if we can get off to a good start here at this stadium and build on that, we will put ourselves in a great position to go further in this competition.”
Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel sat out Saturday’s trip to Old Trafford with a groin injury, but he is expected to play against Porto after training with the rest of the squad on Monday.
French midfielder Nampalys Mendy, however, remains sidelined with an ankle problem.
Ranieri will draw confidence from the presence in his starting XI of 28 million pounds ($36.3 million, 32.3 million euros) record signing Islam Slimani.
The Algeria striker scored six goals against Porto in six appearances for his former club Sporting Lisbon -- including five this year alone -- and was dubbed ‘The Dragon Slayer’ by the Lisbon club’s fans.
Porto, nicknamed ‘The Dragons’, have never won in 16 previous visits to England -- drawing two games and losing 14.
But they have missed just three Champions League seasons since the competition was rebranded in 1992 and are two-time European champions, making Ranieri wary of their pedigree.
“We have a lot of respect for Porto,” said the Italian, who reached the Champions League semi-finals with Chelsea in 2004.
“They are a more experienced team in Europe, they’ve played so many Champions League matches and are used to staying at the top of their league.
“In the last 10 years, they won six titles. We respect them a lot, but we’ll try to win.”
Porto are currently third in the Portuguese Liga, three points behind leaders Benfica, following a 3-1 home win over Boavista on Friday.
Porto went out in the Champions League group phase last year and new coach Nuno Espirito Santo made an inauspicious start in this season’s competition with a 1-1 draw at home to 10-man FC Copenhagen.
But Nuno, a former Porto goalkeeper, is hopeful that Tuesday will be the day that Porto finally end their English hoodoo.
“History tells us FC Porto has never managed to win in England, but records are there to be broken,” he told Monday’s pre-match press conference.
“We have a chance in front of us. Leicester are champions of the Premier League and it is one of the best leagues in the world. What Leicester did last season was remarkable and we must respect it.
“It’s a new day and a new game and we have to go into it believing we can go beyond our limits.
“One of the most important things, and we cannot ever lose it, is our main idea. We are a team who likes to control the ball and we must do it tomorrow.”
Uruguay right-back Maxi Pereira has been named in Porto’s squad after recovering from the thigh injury he sustained in their Champions League play-off victory over Roma in August.