It is the enigma of today’s world club football. Last year at this relative moment in time, Leicester were the toast of most soccer fans. They eventually went on to win the Premier League as the first unlikely underdogs to win club football’s most coveted league title.
Today Leicester, though still active in the European Champions League, where they need a 1-0 return-leg victory to advance to the quarterfinals, lie 17th position on the Premier League table, one point from the relegation spot with 13 games to go.
Many have wondered how a team that so commandingly dominated English football less than a year ago have recently gone five consecutive games without picking up a point.
Leicester this season have shown us two faces. The Champion’s League one and the Premier League one. In the latter they are struggling and in the former they are quite relatively impressive, having topped their group stage conceding, I believe, just one goal. Yesterday though, while not being impressive, they lost 2-1 at “solid” Seville for the round of 16 first leg.
It is obvious that this team is talented and seem to have, from the beginning of the season, prioritised the Champion’s League adventure ahead of the Premier League. The Champion’s League is not only energy sapping but mentally highly demanding. If you’ve never played it, it is difficult to understand the magnitude.
Most especially if your local weekly league is hugely demanding like the Premier League. This could help many understand why most English clubs that are dominant in the PL struggle at the Champion’s League or Europe in general. Take Liverpool for example. Last year they went as far as the finals of the relatively less demanding Europa League, but could barely qualify from the PL for this season’s Champions League or Europa League.
To do well in both Europe and the local league, teams need large squads and players, talented by international world standards, in numbers. It further helps if your local league is not so demanding week in, week out, to at least give the team some form of “rest” or, better put, some easy games to permit active match rests.
Though Leicester, in my opinion, have quality players, I do not feel they have a strong enough team of 22 complete world class players to manage simultaneous PL and Champions League success.
Leicester needs the PL to survive as a club and a drop into the sometimes difficult to win Championships would be not only a sporting disaster but a huge financial setback, if not suicide!
Leicester has to choose. Do they still continue to fight on both fronts where we all believe that short of another miracle they stand very little chance of winning the Champions League and staying up at the same time, or sacrifice the Champions League to further and better concentrate on their survival in the PL, and maybe existence as a club in the long run?
I feel that, though unethical, it could be a time for Leicester to give priority to the PL and accept that losing the Champions League dream could just be winning the right to stay in the PL for next season at least.