The Foxes may be preparing for a Champions League last 16 tie but their Premier League performances suggest Claudio Ranieri’s men are far from safe
Last season’s 5000/1 fairy tale will live long in the memory of football fans around the world. Leicester City, one of the pre-season relegation favourites had defied all expectations to best the biggest clubs in the Premier League and claim a maiden top flight title.
The story continues for the Foxes and after topping their Champions League group they now face the prospect of a two-legged clash with Europa League holders Sevilla.
Closer to home though, Claudio Ranieri’s men are far from assured of their top flight status for another season. The title victory was undoubtedly a freak result and while a regression in their performances was expected, the reigning champions are being sucked into a relegation dog fight.
A 1-0 defeat to Burnley means the East Midlands club have taken just three points from a possible 36 on the road this term, scoring just eight times. Without a league win away from the King Power Stadium, the champions are now just two above the drop zone.
With FA Cup and European distractions likely to further impact their preparations, the 6/1 (7.0) with Paddy Power on the Blues for relegation could be much shorter after their next six matches which sees the Foxes face Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, plus must-win clashes with relegation rivals Hull and Swansea, who are show signs of life after changes on the side-lines.
The squad is definitely capable of better, the Champions League performances against the likes of Copenhagen and Porto have demonstrated that, but the most important question is can Ranieri get that kind of tune out of his side domestically? It would be unthinkable to imagine him under pressure just a few months ago given what he has achieved at the King Power Stadium but Paddy Power are now 4/1 (5.0) that the 65-year-old Italian is the next Premier League manager to go, second only to Aitor Karanka who is priced at 6/4 (2.50).
In the eight league matches since their emphatic 4-2 win over Manchester City, Leicester have scored three goals, drawing a blank in six of those encounters and conceding 11 times. Having made minimal additions in the January transfer window and with Leonardo Ulloa vowing never to play for them again, the club are now putting faith in a group of players who have looked far from equipped for a relegation battle so far this term.
Leicester were in worse shape two years ago under the stewardship of Nigel Pearson but expectations were different back then. The raft of new contracts for large swathes of the current squad mean relegation – and a significant loss in TV revenue which props up such spending – would not be so much a bitter disappointment but a disaster, both on and off the field.
The tight-knit spirit of last season seems to have all but disappeared and with a string of vastly underwhelming performances now mounting up, it’s time to accept that they face a real battle to remain in the division which they won less than 12 months ago.
If Ranieri is able to reinvigorate the squad and reproduce anything close to last season’s results, they could pull clear of course, but on the current level of performance, at 6/1 (7.0) Leicester are certainly a value bet for relegation given their tricky fixture list over the next month.