Leicester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Another momentous week in the extraordinary recent history of Leicester City ends on Saturday with the prospect of a seemingly mundane Premier League game.
Yet the English champions insist their return to domestic action at home to Burnley is more important than their debut in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Four months after qualifying for Europe’s elite club competition, the Foxes made a dream first appearance with a 3-0 victory away to Club Brugge of Belgium.
But for Marc Albrighton, the scorer of Leicester’s first Champions League goal, and Claudio Ranieri, the manager who has overseen their rise, defending their Premier League title remains the key objective.
“This has gone now,” said Albrighton of the victory in Belgium. “It’s been nice to enjoy it but it’s gone now.
“We’ll have a meeting about Burnley now and we’ve got to get our heads switched on to them.
“We’ll have no problem focusing on that. We know that’s our bread and butter.
“We need to concentrate on our league form and get some wins there and that’s where it matters.
“Hopefully, we can pick something up at the weekend, carry this form into the league and do a good job there.”
With the exception of a 2-1 victory at home to Swansea City that was more comfortable than the scoreline suggested, Ranieri’s men have found the going difficult at the start of the season.
– Leicester gift –
A shock defeat at Hull City in their opening game and a heavy 4-1 loss at Liverpool last week means they have just four points from as many games so far this term.
But Ranieri insisted the Champions League adventure cannot be used as an excuse or serve as a distraction, with backing up last season’s title triumph still more important.
“The massive thing is the Premier League in my opinion — bigger than the Champions League,” said the Italian.
“The Champions League is a gift for Leicester, for me, the players, and the fans. We want to win of course but it is a strange competition.
“You can go out at the first round. And then what happens? No, we are focused on the Premier League. We want to defend the title in Premier League.”
Burnley manager Sean Dyche pitted his wits against Leicester in the second-tier Championship just three seasons ago, but the Foxes have since gone on to greater glories.
And the Clarets boss is full of admiration for Ranieri, whose strengths he is trying to embrace.
“A brilliant thing that Ranieri’s done is playing to players’ strengths,” said Dyche.
“He has flexed it and allowed them to get the best from themselves. He’s formatting it more on what the players offer rather than ‘I’m the manager, I’m going to tell you what to do’.
“It’s a fantastic way of management in my opinion. I’ve tried to do that here. It’s always designed to get the best out of the players and so far our record is pretty good at getting the best out of the players.”
Dyche added: “I’ve been enjoying his press conferences. I don’t remember him coming out with a brand.
“He just said ‘this is what we do’, he’s said his team is going to play with energy.
“They played Man City away and he was asked what are you going to have to do at City? He said ‘run and run and run’. It’s refreshing to hear a manager say that. They did that and they won.
“We’ve got to this level of football life where that would normally be done down, but because they won at Man City and then went on to win the league it’s been rightly lauded.”
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