After being a global phenomenon last season, Leicester have reverted to more reasonable expectations and are in serious danger of relegation. They’ve lost six of their last eight and this weekend ended their participation in the FA Cup, as they lost to 10-man Millwall, two leagues below them. The Champions League however, had provided a new opportunity for them to overperform, and they won their group with hardly a doubt.
Claudio Ranieri mixed up the starting XI this weekend, opting to omit Vardy and Mahrez, but you suspect it was to rest them for this match, instead of the true shakeup many have suggested is necessary. Regardless, it’s the Huth-Morgan foundation at the back that is the most concerning. After being remarkably reliable last season, there’s clearly not much left in the tank and Leicester have been shipping goals.
Opposite them, Sevilla have been most interesting squads to follow this season, sitting in the top three in Spain, with a revived Samir Nasri providing spark from midfield. They’ve held their own against big squads, beating Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, while playing Barca to a close 2-1 loss. They will be favorites here.
For Sevilla, the Champions League has been merely a warm-up for the Europa League trophy they’ve come to own for three years straight (as well as in both 2006 and 2007). Their five Europa League trophies in 11 years have given them more silverware in Europe than Manchester City, Chelsea or Arsenal. Things aren’t as optimistic as you’d expect, however, after director of football Monchi, the most influential figure in the club’s recent success, was denied a request to quit after suffering from considerable burnout. In addition, they lost their highest scoring player last year, Kevin Gameiro (among four other high profile losses) but Monchi has brought in plenty of reinforcements, including Ben Yedder, who scored 17 in 35 for Toulouse last season. They’ll also begin the season with former Chile manager Jorge Sampaoli taking the helm. With Juve the only big contender in their group, a trip to the Round of 16 is within reach.
Last year’s improbable season gives Leicester a chance to prove themselves at the highest possible level (sorry, World Cup). While it would be foolish to discount their chances, competing in the Champions League in addition to defending their Premier League title and playing in two domestic cups is a tall order for any club - let alone one that was built a year ago for one purpose: avoiding relegation. The Foxes managed to hold onto the talent they need to get out of the group stage, the question is whether they have to squad depth to compete on multiple fronts.
Scored at least 14 goals for four straight seasons at Toulouse in Ligue 1.
N'Zonzi was Stoke City's player of the year in 2014-15 prior to joining Sevilla.