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Ranieri eyes ‘fantastic achievement’ in Europe

Claudio Ranieri

Claudio Ranieri is hopeful of another “fantastic achievement” as Leicester head into Tuesday’s Champions League game against Club Brugge knowing a draw would see them progress to the last 16.

The Premier League champions are top of Group G after three wins and a draw.

“We have the chance to go through,” said the Foxes manager.

“I respect Club Brugge a lot and I can’t believe they’re on zero points. They play well and create good chances – it’s strange.”

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Leicester have impressed in their debut in Europe’s elite club competition despite an indifferent defence of their surprise Premier League title win.

The Foxes sit in 12th spot having suffered their fourth loss in the last seven games on Saturday when they were defeated by Watford.

“Our focus is to now try to win tomorrow [Tuesday] and then go back to the Premier League and try to improve our [position in the] table,” the Italian added.

Record summer signing, striker Islam Slimani, will miss the match at the King Power Stadium with a groin injury while defensive midfielder Nampalys Mendy (ankle) and keeper Kasper Schmeichel (hand) are long-term absentees.

‘People are laughing at Club Brugge’

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Marc Albrighton scored for Leicester in their win at Brugge earlier in the campaign

Bottom-placed Brugge are winless in Europe this season, losing all four of their games, during which they have conceded 10 goals and scored just once.

They go into the game against Leicester looking to avoid a club record fifth straight European defeat.

“It’s a pity we are on zero points, it’s something some people are laughing at and it’s something we want to get rid of soon,” said Brugge striker Jelle Vossen, formerly of Middlesbrough and Burnley.

“We were very close to the level of the other teams and have enough confidence to go for a victory.

“Leicester are still the champions of England, they play direct football and have a lot of speed and power. We have to have the guts to play our football. They didn’t steal the title last season, they haven’t lost any of their quality.”

Brugge are without Bjorn Engels, who injured his shoulder in the defeat by Leicester two months ago, and Abdoulaye Diaby is sidelined with a groin problem, while Ruud Vormer is banned.

Looking good for Leicester?

  • Club Brugge are winless in their last nine games against English clubs in all competitions (D2 L7), failing to keep a clean sheet in any of those games.
  • Leicester’s two home games in this season’s Champions League have both ended 1-0, with Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani involved in both goals as goalscorer and assist provider.
  • Leicester are the first team in Champions League history to keep a clean sheet in each of their opening four games. Indeed, Kasper Schmeichel – who broke his hand in the game against Copenhagen – has saved all 11 shots on target he’s faced.
  • The Foxes could also become the first team since Malaga in 2012-13 to win their group in their first ever Champions League appearance.
  • This is Brugge’s fifth Champions League participation and they still have never reached the knockout stages. They finished third in their group in each of their four previous campaigns.
  • The Belgian side are the only club, along with Dinamo Zagreb, to have lost all four of their games in this season’s Champions League. The Belgian team have never failed to win a game in a previous CL group stage though.
  • They have managed just one clean sheet in their last 13 Champions League matches.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/38054997