12 Dec Ranieri happy with European draw
Claudio Ranieri has welcomed Leicester’s Champions League draw against Sevilla as their debut campaign continues to the knockout stage.
Having stunningly won the Premier League last season and then topped Group G ahead of Porto, FC Copenhagen and Club Brugge, Ranieri acknowledged his side represented a favourable draw for any of the group runners-up.
But having avoided the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid to land the team who have won the Europa League for three straight years, he too was happy with the outcome in Nyon on Monday.
“For us it is a tough but very exciting draw against a team who are used to fighting in Europe,” he said.
“Whoever we played would have been a tough opponent, but I think all the teams who arrived second will have wanted to play against us and I know that we will be the underdogs once again. Always we are underdogs, every time.
“I know that Sevilla have lifted the Europa League three times in three years – it is unbelievable. Now they are third in the league and have lost only three so far. They are a big, big, big team.
“They are very technical and very good. They are fighting to win the title with Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, so that tells you how good they are.
“For the fans it is good because Spain is a fantastic country and a lot of English people enjoy going there. They have been with us in every game so far and for them I say ‘enjoy’, and that we will continue to fight to go as far as we can in the Champions League.
“For now, we must focus on us. We have to be focused on the Premier League and we will enjoy the Champions League whenever it happens.”
That domestic focus begins on Tuesday evening with a fixture against a Bournemouth side two places and two points ahead of Ranieri’s side, whose disappointing start to their title defence has left them 14th in the table.
They bounced back to form in style on Saturday, though, beating Manchester City 4-2 as striker Jamie Vardy ended his 16-game club goal drought with a hat-trick.
The latter stages of that match also saw a long-awaited return for midfielder Matty James after 19 months out with a knee injury, and he is hoping to remain involved.
“It’s been such a difficult time for me,” he told Foxes Player. “I’ve had to have numerous things done to my knee and there’s been one or two other issues that have been a problem for me.
“I feel great now and to come on against Manchester City, the fans were great with me and I can only thank them for their support over the last 18 months.
“The main thing was to get back fit, at one point I thought ‘Is it ever going to happen?’ – now I just want to get back to the level I was at before my injury.”
Fellow midfielder Danny Drinkwater is available after suspension against the Cherries but full-back Danny Simpson serves a one-match ban. Keeper Kasper Schmeichel could return after over a month out with a broken hand.