Leicester City dare to dream as they bid to upset odds yet again against Atletico Madrid

John Percy
The Telegraph
Leicester City are long odds-on to advance - but they still believe - Rex Features
Leicester City are long odds-on to advance - but they still believe - Rex Features

Leicester City have proven such an irritant to the bookmakers during these past 12 months that the odds for a victory over Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night are probably best off ignored.

The chances of Leicester winning the Premier League title last season were equal to Elvis Presley being found alive and here we are again, with Leicester heading into the biggest night in their history as rank outsiders.

Atleti have reached the Champions League final twice in the last three seasons and are European veterans facing the English upstarts, widely expected to reach the semi-finals by completing the job at the King Power Stadium.

Diego Simeone is a cunning and streetwise tactician, arguably the only remaining star manager operating outside English football, while striker Antoine Griezmann has an eye-watering £85million release clause. Atleti’s odds to go through are 17-100 with some bookies.

Yet Leicester’s ability to frequently upset the odds has defined their thrilling year and manager Craig Shakespeare is refusing to bet against another famous night.

<span>Antoine Griezmann scored the only goal of the first leg</span> <span>Credit: getty images </span>
Antoine Griezmann scored the only goal of the first leg Credit: getty images

“The bookmakers have got it wrong in the past and let’s hope they’ve got it wrong again on Tuesday night,” he said.

“We know we start as underdogs because of the history of Madrid but we are comfortable with that. We know what we have to do and let’s hope we earn people a few bob.

“Where the club has come from is remarkable and if you had said last year ‘you’d win the Premier League and this year be in the quarter-finals and with a chance to be in the semi-finals’, everyone would have been pinching themselves.

“But the message will be very much that we are here to have a right go. We have had some special nights and let’s make it another one.”

The second leg is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Shakespeare and his players, who may never have the chance to feature on such a grandiose stage again in their careers.

Leicester’s European excursions began in Bruges on a balmy night in September and while reaching the quarter-finals has already defied expectations, these players are in no mood to close the chapter on their adventure.

Christian Fuchs, the defender, said: ‘It is something very special to us, we are small Leicester City playing in the Champions League for the first time in our history and it is already great.

“Being in the quarter-finals is outstanding. We just want to enjoy the time we have. We might never be here again.

“We might be at some point again, but right now it is simply this one game that we have and we try to give everything to be successful.

“I’m fired up and looking forward to it. Everyone said we’d crack under the pressure last season and we didn’t. I don’t think anyone loves coming to the King Power but nevertheless we are still the underdogs.”

Leicester’s hopes of progress will be fuelled by a smouldering sense of injustice, following the decision by Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson which swung the first leg at the Vicente Calderon.

Atletico Madrid and Leicester City player ratings

Eriksson awarded Atletico a penalty despite Marc Albrighton clearly fouling Griezmann outside the box and Leicester supporters of a certain vintage are comparing the controversy to the events of 1997.

That year it was French referee Remi Harrel, who infuriated Martin O’Neill with a number of bewildering calls as Leicester exited the Uefa Cup to Atletico at Filbert Street.

Shakespeare said: “It’s not gnawing away at me and the last thing the players need is me harping on about it [the referee’s decision].

“We have to make sure we’re fully focused on the game and nothing else. Our players have to be smart and our game management has to be good. We can’t sit back for 90 minutes because we need to score.

“You want footballers to express themselves, to enjoy it and play with a smile on their face, that is when you get the best out of them. 

“Players will tell you after a game, if you’ve lost, you haven’t enjoyed it.”

<span>Marc Albrighton clearly brought Griezmann down outside the penalty area</span> <span>Credit: GETTY IMAGES </span>
Marc Albrighton clearly brought Griezmann down outside the penalty area Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Wes Morgan, the captain, will be assessed on Tuesday morning but could return after missing the last six games with a back injury.

Morgan has come through three training sessions without any adverse effects and is in line to start, with Robert Huth suspended after his booking in the Spanish capital last week.

“I’m really pleased with how Wes has progressed,” said Shakespeare. “The final decision will be on the day of the game.

“We want to make sure he’s 100 per cent fit and there’s no reaction to the training.”

Atletico beat bottom club Osasuna 3-0 on Saturday, also contriving to miss two penalties, and influential France international Kevin Gameiro is poised to return for the second leg.

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