| 19.4°C Dublin

Underdogs can still bite Atletico


Claudio Ranieri

Claudio Ranieri


Claudio Ranieri

There are many out there who still believe that Leicester City's players betrayed Claudio Ranieri and that every forward step in the Champions League simply underlines the notion.

Leicester take on Atletico tonight in the first-leg of the quarter-finals and I would give them a chan ce. Ignore the game against Everton because they were a much weakened team. All their eggs are now in a European basket.

So how have they been able to reset in mid-season and suddenly produce form? This is not a mystery. Ranieri (right) was sacked and they came out of their shell.

Were they wrong to go into that shell in the first place? Nobody is in any position to judge that unless they experienced Ranieri's management but it happened and ultimately, it is down to the manager when players won't perform. Who else?

Ranieri was on television at the start of the week and smiled a lot but didn't make much sense.

He spoke about someone scheming to get him out but was adamant that the players hadn't turned on him.


We were left thinking that this a man wronged by shadowy people in the background at Leicester but I don't buy that.

Whoever made the decision to sack him made the right call and Ranieri cannot dispute that fact because of events since.

With him, they were plummeting towards the Championship. Without him they have moved steadily out of relegation danger and have a wild card chance to upset the elite in Europe again by following up an unlikely title with an equally surprising run at the Champions League

Whether Ranieri likes it or not, the players stopped playing for him and the evidence is there to see.

Craig Shakespeare, a direct link back to Nigel Pearson, has been able to tune into whatever it was that sparked Leicester's miracle survival in 2014/2015 and subsequently, the most unlikely title win of all time.

Most importantly, he is not Ranieri.

I notice that a few details are beginning to leak out about changes that the Italian made this season and Danny Simspon seemed to focus on the absence of chicken on the after-match dinner menu as a source of acrimony within the squad.

That might sound petty and stupid but none of us were there and it seems pretty obvious that chicken was not the issue. The fact that Ranieri changed the menu was.

That tells me that the players were ripe for discontent and that diet wasn't the only thing he was tinkering with.

I do find it hypocritical of commentators to lash the players for all of this. Football has given players too much power and it is human nature to push against boundaries.

Ranieri made changes and the impact of them was to switch off all the things which made Leicester so formidable.

He lost N'Golo Kante and that had to be a huge blow to the rest of the players. They all knew how big a contribution he had made.

I'm also certain that there would have been flows and eddies among the players after the title win. Any group of young adults will be jam-packed with petty resentments and success at such a high level will expose any weaknesses relentlessly.

Now, Leicester are clearly in a much better place and I fully expect them to complete their escape from the relegation zone in the coming weeks.

Can they beat Atletico over two legs and reach the semi-finals?

Of course they can. They are all playing for the team again and that's a powerful quality.