The 2016/17 season has been far from what Leicester City experienced a year ago, and yet the Foxes still have the opportunity to outdo themselves.
A Premier League title is nice, but what if a bigger trophy was on the table? Perhaps a UEFA Champions League crown?
That became a distinct possibility on Tuesday when Leicester reached the UCL quarterfinals after completing a 3-2 comeback against Sevilla over their two-legged Round of 16 encounter.
It’s true that the Foxes will have to deal with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and others if Craig Shakespeare’s squad is able to complete the unthinkable — again — but the club’s manager is a prime example of exactly why Leicester could do it.
When Claudio Ranieri was sacked several weeks back and Leicester appeared dead-in-the-water, up stepped Shakespeare. The former assistant was just a 53-year-old expected to right the ship after the club appeared on pace to complete the greatest collapse in PL history after winning the league the season prior.
Instead, Shakespeare and co. are unbeaten in three matches since the Birmingham-native took charge of the club, including wins over Liverpool and more recently Sevilla.
It’s a strong possibility that a managerial change was exactly what the Leicester players needed, but it does raise a question.
Why the sudden change in form?
Sinking towards the bottom of the PL is unacceptable for any reigning champion, and although Leicester doesn’t boast the status of a Manchester United or Chelsea, the club did bring back essentially the same squad from a year ago with the exception of N'Golo Kante.
It’s only a small sample size of the Shakespeare era but there has been a noticeable difference in his three matches in charge.
Jamie Vardy has been more effective in the attack, which is something that couldn’t be said for much of the first half of the season.
Meanwhile, the club’s other key attacking threat, Riyad Mahrez, has been effective throughout the season, particularly in the Champions League. The Algerian has netted four of his eight goals in the UCL, which is tied for eighth in the competition.
While the Foxes attack has enamored onlookers for the past year-and-a-half, one player that has really gone under the radar is goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. The former Manchester United shot-stopper’s son has been the definition of stable in the Leicester net, and that was once again apparent on Tuesday.
Schmeichel made a seemingly crucial error by taking down Vitolo in the Leicester penalty area while the Foxes were up a goal and a man, but the 30-year-old immediately made good on his mistake by stopping the subsequent spot kick.
It’s that fighting spirit though that makes the Foxes as exciting as they’ve been, and regardless of which team Leicester draws in the final eight it’s conceivable that this side has at least one more moment of magic left in them in 2016/17.Follow @MattReedFutbol