Nyon (Switzerland) (AFP) – Holders Real Madrid, comeback kings Barcelona and the mighty Bayern Munich are all in the hat for Friday’s Champions League quarter-final draw, but Zinedine Zidane knows who he wants to avoid.
“No coach wants Leicester as a rival,” the Real boss admitted, a view echoed by Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon: “Leicester, because they’re a dangerous side, they’re full of enthusiasm and can hurt you.”
Leicester stunned world football to win the Premier League last season and in their first foray in Europe’s premier club competition they wrote another chapter in the fairytale by surging into the last eight after seeing off Sevilla.
They are the only English side left in the competition after Manchester City capitulated to Monaco and Arsenal were humiliated by Bayern.
Leicester’s achievement is even more stunning when you consider that their maiden Champions League run comes with them flirting with relegation in the Premier League this season, albeit on the upswing after the controversial sacking of their title-winning coach Claudio Ranieri.
Replacement boss Craig Shakespeare says his side can pull off another shock in the quarter-finals, no matter who they draw in Nyon at 1100 GMT on Friday.
“We might just be the surprise team,” Shakespeare said — a nice line in understatement — after the Foxes overturned a 2-1 first-leg deficit to beat Sevilla 3-2 on aggregate at a rocking King Power Stadium this week.
“We know there’s going to be some terrific teams, as there were in the previous round… We’re in there on merit. Make no mistake about that.”
Leicester skipper Wes Morgan insisted he was relishing the chance to take on a Champions League giant.
“You want to pit your wits against the best players in the world and that’s what they are,” said Morgan, who scored the Foxes’ first against Sevilla.
“We’ve played Barca pre-season so it would be nice to play them again.
“It would be fantastic to go somewhere like one of those and experience that.”
And goalkeeper Buffon, having seen perennial Italian champions Juventus swat aside Porto, and Zidane are both wary of Leicester.
“Leicester do what everyone says they cannot do,” Zidane told reporters.
“They have very talented players, but the most important thing is that they play with passion and with heart.”
– No appetite for Bayern-Dortmund –
In the last 16 teams from the same country could not be drawn together, but they can in the last eight and there is every chance of an all-Spanish or all-German encounter.