Leicester City scripted history when they won the Premier League title last season against the expectation of 99.9% of the football fraternity who cared to predict a pre-season favourite for the title. Not only the win but the manner of it was exceptional. A comfortable 10-point margin on 2nd placed Arsenal was no laughing matter and such a season compelled the Premier League bigwigs to go back to the drawing board. And along with the title and all the adulation of it, Leicester City enjoyed the perks of being a Premier League winner as they got a direct entry into the group stages of the Champions League. An honour and possibility that only a few teams can dream of, let alone realise, Ranieri’s troops made it happen.
And while they were on cloud 9, the expected sceptic brigade came out in full force once the hullabaloo of their win died down. While the fans were more than happy to see their club on the biggest stage, football pundits could not help but wonder aloud at the disparity in the standard of the European elites with the shock English champions. And after a long summer where they had to sort their own issues regarding the difficult job of keeping the star players and at the same time bolstering the squad, Ranieri and the board had lots on their plate.
With the draw taking place today, one could potentially say that Leicester have got their due. A small club with limited resources pulling one up on all their heavyweight counterparts and then managing to convince most of their players to stick with the club as they roared into the virgin territory of Champions League, Leicester needed help in the form of a little bit of luck.
While practically being the Champions of England secured a spot in the Pot A, there were enough potential blockbuster teams in the remaining pots which would have ensured a David vs Goliath battle, with maybe a different outcome at the end. And while most of the talk has been of Pep Guardiola’s return to his home -the Camp Nou and a replay of last year’s nerve wrecking semi-final of Atletico Madrid Vs Bayern Munich, the Foxes would be perfectly happy with how everything has panned out.
Leicester has got Fc Porto, Club Brugge and Danish club FC Copenhagen. A draw, which in hindsight the Foxes would have gladly accepted. It was widely believed that the Foxes will be limited to a guest appearance in the group stage and not many would have given them an iota of a chance of progressing beyond that. But today’s draw has changed everything. And while the Old Fox Ranieri will be reminding his boys, again and again, to keep their feet on the ground and their heads in the football pitch, one can feel an aroma of optimism floating out of the King Power as the lads gear up for their greatest journey of a lifetime and on the basis of initials, they could not have asked for a better start.