With Leicester City approaching an historic Champions League quarter-final against Atlético Madrid at the Calderón, AS English chatted to stalwart City supporter Oliver Kirwan.
Oliver was one of the Foxes faithful in Sevilla's Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán back in February. Leicester successfully navigated the round of 16, and he is now back on Spanish soil as The Foxes' maiden Champions League campaign continues...
Was it the correct decision to sack Claudio Ranieri?
Yes, I believe that it was the correct decision. It was undoubtedly a sad ending to a fairytale story, but ultimately, with him at the helm there is no question that we would have been relegated.
We don’t know what went on behind the scenes, and we may never find out, but something obviously happened and the players lost confidence in him. Personally, I would have made the change earlier.
I did find the timing odd, though. It came straight after what turned out to be a great result in Sevilla. That said, given the subdued reaction from Ranieri after that match, I think the decision had already been made.
What has Craig Shakespeare changed since taking the reins?
It sounds very cliché, but I believe he has ‘gone back to basics’. He has reverted back to what we are good at. Jamie Vardy is back playing on the shoulder of the last defender and running in behind; before, he was dropping deeper to become more of a link-up player.
The recent form of Wilfred Ndidi has been a huge help as well. He appears to have filled the huge void left by Kanté in the midfield. His presence has allowed the defence to drop deeper, meaning their lack of pace has not been exposed as much.
Will Shakespeare continue to set Leicester up in the same way at the Calderón?
Yes, I believe he will. He’ll bring back in the players that he rested. I expect to see Okazaki dropping into the midfield to provide a buffer.
It is the only way that we know how to play, and I think it’s best not to change the way that you play in order to combat another team.
How much will Wes Morgan's absence through injury affect Leicester's chances?
To put it simply, he will be a miss because he is better than Benalouane.
When you have a defence that has played together for two years, and knows each other so well, you do miss something when one of them can't play. We might realise just how important he is when we come up against some quality opposition on Wednesday.
That said, I think Benalouane probably is more mobile, which could be better when coming up against Griezmann.
Have Leicester fans treated the Champions League as a European jolly, or do you have genuine aspirations to win the competition?
I think that depends on which Leicester fan you speak to. Personally, I’m just trying to enjoy the experience as much as possible, because I know that it’s not going to last, and it will probably never happen again.
In a one-off match, I’d give us a slight chance against anybody, but over two legs against the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich, we’ve got absolutely no chance.
Some fans will say: “but why not? - we won the League when nobody thought that we would”. I think these fans are naïve to how good the big European teams are. They are far superior to anything that we have at the moment in England.
Would Wes Morgan lifting the Champions League in Cardiff surpass the Premier League victory last year in the fairytale stakes?
For a club like Leicester, it is hard to imagine that anything could ever top winning the Premier League. But winning the Champions League would do that.
It should be impossible for us to win a competition that the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Barça are competing for. To do it would just be so special. We are talking about beating some of the giants of world football. For me, it would surpass everything.
First leg: 3-1 Atlético win.
Second leg: 1-1.
My only hope is that Atléti don’t find their groove, and put four or five past us. Unfortunately, I think our fairytale might be coming to an end.