Football/Soccer

Andy King hopes Leicester can get across Champions League line in Copenhagen

Leicester City's Andy King (left) and Jamie Vardy (right) during a training session before Wednesday's Champions League Group G game against FC Copenhagen
Picture by AP
Nick Mashiter

LEICESTER midfielder Andy King is hoping the Foxes can become real heroes in Copenhagen on Wednesday after last year's fancy dress party in the Danish capital.

The squad headed to Copenhagen for their Christmas do last December, with King, Danny Drinkwater, Matty James and Ben Hamer dressing up as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Shinji Okazaki was Bananaman, while Jamie Vardy was the White Power Ranger and Robert Huth Batman.

Claudio Ranieri's side face FC Copenhagen on Wednesday knowing victory would seal qualification for the last-16 of the Champions League. The Foxes are making their debut among the European elite and, with the side top of Group G and five points clear with nine points, King wants to be celebrating in Copenhagen again.

"We had a great weekend. That sort of sums up the team spirit we've got in the camp," said the Wales international, who reached the Euro 2016 semi-finals with his country in the summer.

"We all came away for the Christmas party, we had had a great time and saw bits of the city. But we're here for work now and hopefully we can go home as happy as we did last time.

"At that point, we weren't looking that far ahead. We were top at Christmas and the aim was 40 points and we were nearly there. We're 10 months down the line and a lot has gone on, but it's the same desire is in the dressing room.

"We know there's still three massive games to go. We want to get across the line. It's the first time in this competition for us so it would be massive to qualify. We know how hard it's going to be but we've been enjoying it.

"Once you get a little taste of success people want more and the players are no different. We have really enjoyed the last 12 months but we want that to continue - we don't want to rest on our laurels."

King is the club's longest-serving current player, having made 342 appearances for the club, winning League One, the Championship and the Premier League. Eight years ago on Tuesday, he played in the Foxes' 2-1 win over Bristol Rovers in League One.

He said: "It's been brilliant. As a club we have managed to take massive steps, getting back to where we feel we belong in the Premier League. Now it's a dream come true for the club and the players in the Champions League. For myself, I'm just trying to keep improving by working with brilliant players and coaching staff and hopefully that can continue."

Ranieri has remained relaxed ahead of the trip to Denmark and spent Monday night serving sweets to trick-or-treaters at his home in Leicester: "I put a big bag of chocolates at the door. People came. Unbelievable. I came to the door, went back to my living room to watch the television and 'ring!' and I go back. Then I put the chair very close to the door. It was good," he said.

But however cool, Ranieri has warned his side - who have a 100 per cent record in Europe this season and are yet to concede a goal - they cannot take qualification for granted at Parken on Wednesday.

He said: "I understand everybody wants to win but, for us, it's important to have everything in our hands. We can write a new chapter of the Leicester story, but maybe it's not [on Wednesday].

"It's important to concentrate because Copenhagen are well organised. I respect them a lot. We are very close to achieving something special."

Islam Slimani missed last Saturday's 1-1 draw at Tottenham with a groin injury and will not be risked while Ahmed Musa is expected to be fit despite taking a knock scoring the Foxes' second-half equaliser. Nampalys Mendy remains out with an ankle injury which has kept the midfielder sidelined since August.

Ranieri added: "Slimani is not ready. I don't want to risk him. The physio told me, 'He is okay but be careful'. Why use a player for one match and lose him for one month?"

 

Five talking points ahead of the Foxes' Group G game at the Parken Stadium...

CAN THEY QUALIFY ON WEDNESDAY?
Victory at Parken would clinch a last-16 spot for the Foxes and maintain their 100 per cent Champions League record this season. When the group was drawn, there was real hope the Foxes could qualify and they are on the brink with two matches to spare.

Even a point would send Leicester through if Porto fail to beat Club Brugge. Claudio Ranieri's side are five points clear of Copenhagen and Porto and host whipping boys Brugge later this month, but could be home and dry by then.

If Leicester fail to seal the deal in Denmark, there will not be any panic as it would be a major surprise if the Foxes slip up later.

 

HAS AHMED MUSA FINALLY ARRIVED?
The Nigeria international joined Leicester for £16million from CSKA Moscow in the summer and suffered a slow start as he struggled to get to grips with the Premier League. But the 24-year-old has scored twice in his last two games, securing the Foxes' first away point of the season in last Saturday's 1-1 draw at Tottenham, to start to justify the fee - which was a club record at the time.

He is one of the few players who had Champions League experience prior to this season's campaign and the Foxes will need him firing again as they seek to qualify.

 

Leicester City's goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel during Tuesday's training session
Picture by AP

CAN KASPER SCHMEICHEL MAINTAIN HIS FORM?
The goalkeeper has a house round the corner from Parken Stadium and spent his first few years in Copenhagen before father Peter joined Manchester United in 1991. He produced a splendid late save to thwart Andreas Cornelius in the Foxes' 1-0 win last month and is yet to concede a goal in the Champions League after the first three games.

The Denmark international is returning home and will want to produce his best to impress the home fans, who only see him on international duty.

 

WILL STALE SOLBAKKEN SPOIL THE PARTY?
The Copenhagen manager knows how to beat a Leicester team with their strongest spine. During his ill-fated time as Wolves boss, he masterminded a 2-1 win over Leicester in 2012, with the Foxes side then including Schmeichel, Wes Morgan, Danny Drinkwater, Andy King and Jamie Vardy.

Copenhagen are the best side the Foxes have faced in Group G and Solbakken said immediately after their loss at the King Power Stadium last month he was confident of beating Leicester in Denmark.

 

WILL JAMIE VARDY END HIS DROUGHT?
The striker has not scored in his last 11 games for club and country and has netted just three times in all competitions this season. He has assisted two goals in his last three matches, including Musa's strike in last Saturday's draw at Spurs, but a goal remains elusive and he has not scored since early September.

Claudio Ranieri has backed him to end his barren spell sooner rather than later and Copenhagen name-checked him in the press conference, enough to prove he is still a threat.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Football/Soccer