By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Leicester City have turned their debut season in the Champions League into a cakewalk and victory over FC Copenhagen on Wednesday would seal their place in the last 16.
A narrow win over Copenhagen a fortnight ago made Leicester one of only five group stage debutants to win their first three games and should they make it four from four and Porto fail to beat Club Brugge they will secure top spot in Group G.
That would, in likelihood, spare them a clash with one of the big guns in the first knockout round when the competition begins again in the new year.
How Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, England’s other three representatives, would like to be in that position with two group games to spare?
Yet Leicester’s European form has been in stark contrast to their domestic performances as they struggled to adjust to wearing the English champions’ crown.
A 1-1 draw at Tottenham at the weekend, their first away point in the Premier League this season, following on from a home win over Crystal Palace has hinted at a return to the kind of resilience that took them to an historic title last season.
Leicester are one of only four teams — Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Sevilla being the others — yet to concede a goal in the Champions League this season although Copenhagen had their chances at the King Power Stadium where they were beaten 1-0.
That defeat was the only loss in 24 matches in all competitions for the Danish champions who will still feel they have a great chance of progressing to the knockout phase for the second time, following their run in 2010-11.
All the more reason why coach Stale Solbakken is angry that his side had to play a Danish league game on Sunday — a 3-1 victory over FC Midtjylland.
“It’s suicide for Danish football that we have to play a game like this on Sunday evening,” Norwegian Solbakken, whose side are level with Porto on four points, said.
“Our opponents in Wednesday’s Champions League group game could start preparing for the game on Saturday.”
Leicester will be without midfielder Nampalys Mendy (ankle) while Islam Slimani (groin) and Ahmed Musa (knock) will be assessed ahead of the game in the Parken Stadium.
Copenhagen will be hoping Federico Santander can continue a run of form that has helped him to score six goals in his last seven matches in all competitions, including two at the weekend.
(Additional reporting by Phil O’Connor; Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)