Leicester must revert to winning formula
How Ranieri can mastermind a comeback in the second leg against Sevilla
Leicester City scored a crucial away goal in the 2-1 last-16, first-leg defeat by Sevilla yesterday morning (Singapore time), but need a miracle to keep their Champions League dream alive. Here's how the Foxes can pull off an impossible mission in the March 14 return leg.
1 SEAL IT WITH A KISS, RANIERI
There's a nagging suspicion that the old, dithering, indisciplined Claudio Ranieri (above) has returned this season.
Strip away the romance of the occasion and Kasper Schmeichel's heroics and much of Leicester's performance was ragged, disorganised and occasionally outright baffling.
Wes Morgan popped up in the opponents' box to meet crosses - not from set-pieces, but from open play.
Jamie Vardy and Ahmed Musa ran down blind alleys so far up the field they left half of the city of Sevilla between themselves and their midfield cover. The hosts danced through the spaces.
Last season, Leicester adhered to the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) mantra in every game, sticking to their two banks of retro walls and an electrifying striker up front.
But manager Ranieri has tweaked and tinkered all season long to arrive in late February with little idea of his best 11 or formation, a staggering scenario considering the Foxes' reliability last year.
A back-to-basics approach in the second half, via Demarai Gray's introduction, evoked memories of the Leicester of old.
That's the rigid, aggressive, straightforward version that must turn up for the second leg.
2 STOP EPL OLD BOYS
A plucky performance in Sevilla didn't just trigger pangs of nostalgia for EPL fans in Leicester. Stoke City supporters might also have been forgiven for a wallowing in a pit of martyrdom.
Steven N'Zonzi (above), the tall, gangly midfielder who once held fort for the Potters, was a wiry revelation against Leicester.
The Frenchman's dominance was near total, enjoying the most unlikely of partnerships with fellow EPL old boy Samir Nasri.
The former brattish Nasri at Arsenal and Manchester City has quietly given way to a wiser, less selfish player in Sevilla.
Nasri and N'Zonzi completed more passes than the entire Leicester team, as N'Zonzi dropped deep to collect possession and Nasri followed.
They will run away with the second leg if Gray and company do not keep up.
3 BRING BACK THE OLD ONE-TWO
For one gloriously, uplifting moment, the old Leicester was back, Vardy (above, left) was back and even Daniel Drinkwater (above, right) was back.
In the 73rd minute, the irrepressible Gray found Drinkwater and Leicester's fine distributor did what he always did last season.
He relied on telepathy to find the skinny whippet in the box.
His cross was low, hard and precise. Vardy's legs and awareness did the rest.
The England striker's first goal in the Champions League was a pertinent reminder of his side's lost directness.
A fast delivery was curled into space for the hamstring-shredding harrier.
It was once always this way for Leicester. Simplicity can be genius. For Leicester, simplicity can also be salvation.
Their best chance - their only chance - of defeating a vastly superior side in the second leg is the re-opening of those telepathic lines between Drinkwater and Vardy.
The old one-two combination is Leicester's best hope of a knockout.
Against Sevilla, Ahmed Musa was second best in every challenge, lackadaisical in the tackle and non-existent as a defensive force. Demarai Gray’s eventual appearance added a spring to Leicester’s step.
4 DROP MUSA FOR GOOD, STICK WITH GRAY
Sevilla's opening goal summed up Leicester's wretched season.
Musa, the much-vaunted £16-million (S$28.2m) man, was knocked off the ball in central midfield.
He didn't track back. He didn't do anything for 58 miserable minutes until he was finally substituted.
Musa has unwittingly become the antithesis of N'Golo Kante, the unwanted poster boy for all that has gone wrong at the club.
Against Sevilla, he was second best in every challenge, lackadaisical in the tackle and non-existent as a defensive force.
After yet another inept showing in the FA Cup defeat by Millwall, Musa's selection had already raised eyebrows, but was perhaps indicative of the tinkerman's meddling.
Ranieri still can't settle the side, persisting with an expensive flop rather than the rising star on the bench.
Gray's eventual appearance added a spring to Leicester's step.
The 20-year-old displayed maturity beyond his years and established a foothold in a contest that had looked beyond Leicester. After Musa's underwhelming blandness, Gray added a splash of colour.