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Delighted Ranieri turns focus to Premier League

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The numbers behind Leicester’s stunning achievement

Leicester City must use their excellent Champions League form as inspiration to climb the Premier League table, says manager Claudio Ranieri.

The Foxes qualified for the last 16 of Europe’s elite club competition with one game to spare by beating Belgium’s Club Brugge 2-1 on Tuesday.

But they have lost six of their opening 12 Premier League matches and are two points above the relegation zone.

“Now our mind must go on the Premier League,” said Ranieri.

  • Leicester reach Champions League knockout stage
  • Tottenham out after defeat by Monaco
  • Dortmund Legia break Champions League goals record

Leicester went into Tuesday’s game needing a point to qualify for the knockout stages, but secured all three to ensure they will finish top of Group G ahead of 2004 European champions Porto and Danish title-winners FC Copenhagen.

A smart finish by Shinji Okazaki set Ranieri’s side on their way, before Riyad Mahrez doubled the lead from the penalty spot.

Jose Izquierdo scored after a 40-yard run for the visitors, but Leicester hung on to join Arsenal in the draw for the last 16, which takes place on 12 December.

Defending champions Leicester have three Premier League games before the draw, and Ranieri wants his side to use their European form to kick-start their campaign.

He added: “Now the group is won, it is important to come back in the Premier League. I want to push my players to think about it.

“We are very close to relegation so we have to play at same level as in the Champions League. When we want to play for something, we achieve something.”

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‘We’re on a journey’

Leicester have joined the likes of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Paris St-Germain and Atletico Madrid in the next round.

Ranieri said: “We’re on another journey. I don’t know where, but we’re excited.

“It’s unbelievable. Top of the group – how? I am very happy and very proud. I’m happy for the players, the chairman, the fans, everyone.”

Does the Italian have any preference as to who Leicester face next?

“It is not important to us,” he said. “It is important for us to play and have fun with our fans.”

From Scunthorpe to Champions League’s last 16

On 22 November 2008, Leicester played Scunthorpe United in League One, winning 2-1 thanks to a goal by Andy King.

Eight years on, the 28-year-old midfielder played the full 90 minutes as the Foxes overcame Brugge.

So how did Leicester qualify for the last 16 with one game to spare?

It started on 14 September with a 3-0 win over the Belgian side, which was followed by a 1-0 home victory against Porto.

Ranieri’s side made it three out of three with a 1-0 triumph over FC Copenhagen on 18 October, before a goalless draw in the return game in Denmark.

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Andy King and Jamie Vardy celebrate after Leicester reach the knockout stages of the Champions League

Analysis – ‘A team transformed’

BBC Sport chief football writer Phil McNulty

Leicester City’s defence of the Premier League has been characterised by performances that are a pale shadow of the vibrant, brilliantly organised displays that won the title, but their work in Europe has echoed last season’s historic success.

In the Premier League, everything that wrote one of the great sporting stories has been missing – six games lost already compared to three last season, 20 goals conceded in 12 games set against 36 in 38 in their title season. They stand in 14th place, two points off the relegation places.

The stellar performers of last season, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, have struggled desperately in domestic combat. And yet, in the Champions League, Leicester have turned the clock back to last season to become a team transformed.

Their progress has been so impressive that even Europe’s elite might fear a nervous night at the King Power Stadium if they maintain these standards.

Reaction

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Foxes defender Danny Simpson posted this picture of him and goalscorer Shinji Okazaki on Twitter

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Midfielder Andy King was also delighted to help Leicester into the knockout stages

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/38073260