Shinji Okazaki (right) and Riyad Mahrez (second from right) celebrate with Leicester City teammates  at the King Power Stadium in London
Shinji Okazaki (right) and Riyad Mahrez (second from right) celebrate with Leicester City teammates at the King Power Stadium in London HANNAH MCKAY

Leicester advances in Europe, but has work to do in EPL

FOOTBALL: Claudio Ranieri looked forward to "another fairytale" as Leicester qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League.

But the manager told his players they must switch their minds immediately to fixing their faltering Premier League form if they are to avoid the indignity of following their title-winning dream season with relegation battle.

"To be top of the group - it is unbelievable," the Italian said after the 2-1 win over Club Brugge ensured they progress to the knock-out stages as winners of Group H.

"I'm very proud and happy for the fans, for the chairman, for everybody. It is another journey, to be in the knock-out, and whoever we play it will be a fantastic team, another fairytale.

"But our job (in the Champions League) is done for now and our mind must be on the Premier League. "

"We are very close to the relegation zone and we must play at the same level as the Champions League because when we want to do something we achieve something."

Leicester's final group match against Porto on 7 December becomes a dead rubber with Porto unable to manage better than a goalless draw in Copenhagen and the knock-out phase does not begin until mid-February, giving Ranieri almost three months to concentrate on pushing his team up the EPL table.

Currently they lie 14th, just two points above the bottom three, and Ranieri believes his players are showing signs of a loss of confidence.

"You could see that tonight," he said. "We were playing so well. We had 70 per cent of the possession and we concede a goal on the counter attack - an Italian manager concede a goal on counter attack!

"From that point we allowed them a couple more chances. We created some chances but we needed to stay calm.

"We finished well so it is okay, but we lack confidence because in the Premier League, when something happens we concede a goal. And tonight I think from their first shot at goal we concede."

Brugge's second-half performance only increased the frustration being suffered by coach Michel Preud'homme, who has seen his Belgian champions lose all five of their group matches.

"Leicester played a fantastic first half and we played a fantastic second half and maybe with a bit of luck we could have scored a second goal," he said.

You have to play 90 minutes to win a game and the first half for us was a disaster. We showed them too much respect and that has been our problem in the Champions League."

- INM


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