Leicester’s first effort in the Champions League could barely have gone any better, and on Tuesday night the Foxes have the chance to cement their place in the last 16 of Europe’s elite. Claudio Ranieri’s inspirational side may be struggling in the Premier League, but they’re making the UEFA competition look easy. It’s back to where it all began as they face Club Brugges at the King Power stadium – the side they beat 3-0 away to kick start this Champions League journey.
Sitting top of group G with ten points, Leicester need just one more from the last two games to be certain of qualifying, but they can put it beyond doubt with a win against a Brugges side that sits bottom of the group after four defeats from four. Finishing top of the group is motivation enough, and could offer an ‘easier’ last 16 tie.
There are no such concerns for Spurs in group E, where qualification of any kind will be very welcome. Defeats to Monaco and Leverkusen have left their Champions League dreams in tatters, and this is a vital game to stay alive in the group. It will help that Mario Pochettino will know Leverkusen’s result away at CSKA Moscow before his team kicks off, but regardless of permutations, this is a match that Tottenham really must win. On the plus side they warmed up with a 3-2 Premier League win over London rivals West Ham, and Harry Kane’s late double to win that match came at a perfect time. Goals have been a problem in recent weeks, but with their ace marksman back in form they can approach the game with confidence.
Leicester v Club Brugges
Leicester are rated at odds of -222 with Betway to beat a team at home that they beat 3-0 on the road just two months ago.
On the face of it those are good odds, even taking into account Leicester’s relatively poor domestic form. Since that meeting on matchday one, the fortunes of the Foxes and Brugges have taken distinctively different paths. Leicester have won two and drawn one of their subsequent group matches, but Brugges have lost all three of theirs. A 4-0 thrashing in Copenhagen was followed by back-to-back defeats to Porto, and the Belgian representatives now have very little chance of even dropping into the Europa League.
Leicester beat Porto and Copenhagen by a goal to nil, before grinding out a 0-0 draw away in Denmark to put themselves in this position.Their performances in Europe must have fans wondering what’s happening in the Premier League, because domestically they’ve been a shadow of the side that romped to the title last season. Defeats to West Brom and Watford in their last two league games leaves them in 14th place, just two points above the relegation zone. However, it was always going to be difficult to follow up last year’s title success with a squad barely equipped for European football, and it’s clear where priorities have been placed.
Leicester can take one step closer to the impossible dream with a comfortable win over an average Brugges side.
Monaco v Tottenham
Meanwhile Spurs go to Monaco for a must-win game, and the +110 on offer with Paddy Power about over 2.5 goals might be the best way forward.
Technically, Spurs could still qualify with a draw – depending on Leverkusen’s result earlier in the evening – but even if the cards fall in Tottenham’s favour this week, it would leave their fate out of their own hands on matchday six. Monaco are in pole position in group E with eight points, followed by Leverkusen with six, and Spurs with four. CSKA are bottom with two points, and will be out of contention if they fail to beat the German side on Tuesday.
It’s a precarious position for Spurs, and those home defeats to Monaco and Leverkusen might prove to be costly. However, a victory on Tuesday night would change the complexion of the group altogether, with Spurs at home to CSKA while their two rivals square up on matchday six. That would put Mario Pochettino in the unlikely position of winning the last game to guarantee qualification, and the prospect must have crossed his mind. The tactical Argentine will put out a team to win this game, and Spurs could be left open at the back if they over-commit.
The 3-2 win against West Ham brought to an end a seven-game winless streak, and saw the return of Harry Kane on the scoresheet. The England striker was handed two goals on a plate in the last few minutes by West Ham mistakes, but he needed no second invitations to hit an instinctive finish and a match-winning penalty. Spurs have been desperate for a striker in that kind of form, and his reappearance could make all the difference.
The counter-argument is that Spurs have been lacklustre in the Champions League so far, while Monaco are 2nd in the French League and have won their last three games with a 12-0 goal difference. Manchester United flop Falcao is showing his class on the French Riviera, and they’ve been a free-scoring side all season. A win or a draw for them will ensure their own qualification, but they’re unlikely to go too defensive on home soil. Given Spurs’ record in this competition, Monaco will be fully entitled to fancy themselves to win this match, and we could be in for an end-to-end contest.
Leicester to beat Club Brugges
Tuesday 22nd November, 19:45 GMT
Monaco v Tottenham – Over 2.5 Goals
Tuesday 22nd November, 19:45 GMT