Thursday 27 October 2016

Claudio Ranieri: Copenhagen clashes are key for Leicester in Champions League

Published 18/10/2016 | 04:36

Claudio Ranieri's, right, Leicester have won both of their Group G matches in the Champions League
Claudio Ranieri's, right, Leicester have won both of their Group G matches in the Champions League

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri insists the Foxes' Champions League future hinges on their Copenhagen clashes.

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The Foxes host FC Copenhagen on Tuesday with their Premier League title defence already faltering following four defeats in eight games.

Leicester lost just three times last season as they lifted the title by 10 points in the biggest shock in Premier League history.

But they have won both of their Group G matches in the Champions League and face back-to-back games against the Danish champions with the return tie on November 2.

And after admitting he prioritised Europe in his team selection for their 3-0 loss at Chelsea on Saturday, Ranieri knows their next games are vital.

" At this moment it's a priority because in the Premier League we must be safe at the end of the year, the Champions League is now," said the Italian, after benching Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani at the weekend.

"The next two are very important for us and will tell us what we can do in the Champions League."

Ranieri has also defended his Foxes side from criticism they have lacked fight this season after heavy defeats to Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea all came before Champions League ties.

"Sometimes you can play well and sometimes not so well," he said.

"They fight and last season we were more compact but now everyone knows about us. Now we are in the balance, in the middle, and not as good as last season but it's normal for a team like Leicester.

"We want to improve but it's normal when we start the season to have something to work on because new players have come and everything is new. Maybe we want to do something more but we are Leicester, we're a good team and we have to show our qualities."

Copenhagen are unbeaten in 21 games in all competitions this term, 23 going back to last season, and two points behind the Foxes in Group G.

Boss Stale Solbakken spent six months in charge of Wolves during 2012-13 before being sacked in January as Wolves were relegated to Sky Bet League One at the end of the season.

He won just 10 out of 30 games but the former Wimbledon midfielder is relaxed about his record in England.

"It's not about me getting revenge, it's about FC Copenhagen getting a good game," said Solbakken. "We (Wolves) beat Leicester 2-1 back then so they are the ones who get revenge in this case.

"We started brightly and were top three in the first 10 games and then we hit a Championship dry spell due to different reasons. Before I got the chance to turn it around I was sacked. You get sacked after six or seven months in the Championship. Managers do in the Championship, I don't think I'm the first one."

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