Poor Premier League title defence aside, Leicester's season will be deemed a success in other ways

Unlike Blackburn in 1995-96, the Foxes have made light work of their European challenge

BY Raf Diallo 15:03 Tuesday 22 November 2016, 15:03 22 Nov 2016

Leicester City's Jamie Vardy celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game with Riyad Mahrez (left) during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester. Picture by: Nigel French / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Exactly 21 years ago today on November 22nd, the champions of England were going down 3-0 to Russia's Spartak Moscow.

Just a few months before, Blackburn Rovers were Premier League champions, having pipped Manchester United on the final day and that paved the way for Champions League football.

What had been a dream soon became a nightmare however for the club led by Ray Harford.

Blackburn lost those first three Champions League group games to Spartak Moscow, Norway's Rosenborg and Poland's Legia Warsaw, before managing to draw against the latter side at Ewood Park.

But hope was crushed in Moscow on the aforementioned November 22nd as they went down 3-0 to Spartak.

It wasn't just the result though. The match also featured an inter-team-mate fight between David Batty and Graeme Le Saux which is the lasting image from that Blackburn Champions League campaign.

Coupled with poor results in Europe, Blackburn had also made a bad start to their domestic title defence in 1995-96, losing five of their first eight games.

That campaign would end with the club languishing in 7th at season's end.

Fast forward exactly 21 years and Leicester City's Premier League title defence is in equally treacherous water, although the mitigating circumstance is no one - probably the Foxes included - expected to repeat the heroics of last season's fairytale.

At present they have lost exactly half of their 12 league matches, with a pattern of losing before European games continuing this weekend when they lost 2-1 at Watford. 

If anything, it hints that Champions League commitments are proving a distraction domestically.They are on a three-match run without victory, having lost against West Brom and drawn with Tottenham since a 3-1 home win over Crystal Palace.

But while 14th in the league is far from good, their exploits in Europe mean anything but Premier League relegation would take the wind out of their sales. They are not under the same pressure as Arsenal or Manchester City when it comes to balancing the league and Champions League because the expectation is not there in that regard.

Tonight, they host Club Brugge with a Champions League knockout place in sight. They have already thrashed the Belgian club 3-0 away. And sitting on 10 points after three victories (including against 2004 champions Porto) and a draw in Copenhagen means Leicester are on the verge of history.

Unlike Blackburn who flopped at this level, Ranieri could guide Leicester from the already lucrative group stages to the even more financially fertile knockout rounds which would be beyond even the wildest dreams of a fanbase that has already witnessed domestic glory. 

Given that back-to-back league titles seemed nigh on impossible for a club that has already shown that that word has no meaning, a run in the European game's most lucrative club competition would overshadow any domestic failings for this season at least.


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