Leicester City simply cannot afford to lose their Champions League first leg against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.
Leicester City are in a strange position as they head into their Champions League quarterfinal tie against Atletico Madrid. The Foxes simply cannot afford to leave the Vicente Calderon Stadium with a defeat, which is not usual protocol for an away team in a two-legged tie.
Usually, a narrow defeat, with an away goal or two in the bank, would be sufficient. Heading home to play in front of your home fans, with a result that would take you through within reach, would be acceptable.
But this is Leicester City, the Premier League champions, we’re talking about. Not only that, a Leicester City that are in the Champions League quarterfinals. It’s not your average situation, and Leicester will need to approach this tie as such.
Ateltico Madrid was the worst draw possible for the Foxes. Not only because Diego Simeone’s side are one of the best in Europe, but also because stylistically they are all wrong for the Foxes. Leicester thrive on space in transition. They need openings for counter-attacks. An organized Atletico, however, is not the team that will give them that.
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Although, the upside to playing in Madrid first is that with Atletico being at home, they will play slightly more expansively. Leicester must take advantage of that, because if Atletico win the game in Spain, then Simeone will just sit deep and protect Atletico’s lead at the King Power Stadium.
Now, the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona struggle to create chances against Atletico, so that proves just how good their defense can be. Leicester are not going to break Atletico down with possession and passing movements.
They will have to use their trusty counter-attack – it’s their only hope. A counter-attack, that is, which will only be there as long as Atletico allow it to be there. A first leg win will mean Atletico can just shut the game down at their behest.
Does anybody in Europe do that better than Simeone’s team?
However, what if Leicester were to draw 1-1 in Madrid? Or even come away with a shock 1-0 win? That would mean Atletico would have to come out more open in the second leg. That is Leicester’s best chance of advancing in this tie. Most likely, it’s their only chance.
Atletico will do in the away leg whatever the first leg dictates they need to do. So in the first leg, there will be some opportunities to spring out in transition, where Leicester are at their best. But lose the first leg in Madrid, and the second leg will become Leicester’s worst nightmare.
As big of an ask as it is, the Foxes must not lose the first leg.