Unless you're like me and happened to live down the street from a Leicester City fan (Hi, Rob!), your first exposure to the Foxes, a club founded in 1884, was likely during their miraculous title run at the end of the 2015-2016 Premiership Season. And calling it miraculous might actually be selling it short since oddsmakers like Ladbrokes gave Leicester City 5,000 to 1 odds to win the title that season. But win it they did—and by a pretty wide margin. Fueled by players like Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and N'Golo Kante, Leicester won the league by a healthy 10 points, edging out Arsenal and Spurs for the title.
While they haven't quite approached those lofty heights since then, the Foxes have managed four top-ten finishes since 2016, including two in the top five, not to mention their 2020-2021 FA Cup crown. Any way you slice, we've been living through Leicester City's golden age, whether you realized it or not!
And as luck would have it, they're Roma's next opponents in the Europa Conference League, as the two clubs will square off in the two-legged semifinal on April 28th in Leicester and May 5th in Rome.
Before we dive headlong into the Derby della Ranieri, we turned to our friends at the Fosse Posse (the original name of the club was Leicester Fosse because their ground was on Fosse Rd.) for some insight into all things Leicester.
For our fans/readers who may not keep up with the Premiership, give us a recap of what life has been like for Leicester City since their improbable title run in 2016. Did that forever change the fanbase’s expectations or was that merely lightning in a bottle?
Fosse Posse: The owners had big ambitions for the club before we came up, so if anything it was a confirmation that we were supposed to expect more, but yes, expectations were suddenly very different. 5th was our 2nd best finish for about 50 years, and also a disappointment.
Leicester is smack dab in the middle of the Premiership table, so how does that compare to your expectations when the season began? What surprised and disappointed you most about the club’s performance this season?
FP: After 2 years of just missing out on the top 4 in the last week, there was one pretty clear goal in all fans minds and it’s so far off now. In October we were playing the 2nd string in the Europa League to prioritise domestically, now we’ve flipped a full 180 with all eggs firmly in the Conference basket. All very disappointing, especially when it’s caused by an injury record that’s starting to look like it’s not just bad luck.
Talk to us a bit about Jamie Vardy and his importance to this current Leicester City side. He’s still scoring at a decent clip, but how has his style of play changed over the years? Does the club have a succession plan lined up at striker?
FP: The attack isn’t as entirely built around him as it used to be, but his presence would still be a huge boost to the team. His style hasn’t changed all that much in where he looks to run and how he finds his goals, but he’s definitely mellowed over time. He conserves his energy a lot more instead of chasing every lost cause. We’ve had plenty of succession plans over the years but it turns out he’s quite hard to replace. Daka is the current like-for-like replacement, but it’s still early days. He’s had some great games but none of them were recently.
Okay, onto the Conference League. This being a new tournament, how has it been received by the Leicester City fan base? Did you sense that supporters were enthusiastic about this new tournament or was it more of a consolation prize? And have those feelings changed as they’ve progressed through the knockout rounds?
FP: In the early days we were a little put off, especially since we were all expecting to comfortably make the Europa knockouts. Since the games have started though, the whole club has really embraced the ‘European Tour’ (although partly by necessity as the league has spiraled away from us). By the last round, this was the focus of our season and the games the fans are most excited for.
Apart from Vardy, give us a few names Roma fans should be wary of over this semifinal series. Which players are capable of giving turning this series on its head?
FP: James Maddison and Harvey Barnes can both be match winners when on form, which Maddison definitely is in creative ‘10’ role. Barnes is a much more direct, running threat and finally got back in the goals recently. Both were rested at the weekend so expect them to play. The real difference maker could be CB Wesley Fofana. The defence has fallen apart without him and Evans this season, but with both fully fit the unit looks competent again.
We don’t expect you to be a Roma expert, but generally speaking, what types of teams and/or tactical approaches have caused Leicester the most trouble this season? What weaknesses could Mourinho potentially exploit?
FP: It may sound overly simplistic, but just get it in the box. Our set piece record has been atrocious this year, but crosses from open play aren’t being cleared well either. Claiming high balls has never been Schmeichel’s strength and the defence looks panicked and disorganized every time the ball comes over. At the other end we’ve come a long way but still rely on turnovers and pace a bit too much. A structured, deep defence often blunts us.
Lastly, give us a prediction: which club wins this week and which one advances to the finale?
FP: We rotate so much at the moment it’s hard to predict how we’ll play. If pushed, I wouldn’t be surprised if we pinched a win on Thursday but capitulated in the second leg.
Big thanks to our friends at Fosse Posse for their expertise and time. You can follow them on Twitter at The Fosse Posse and be on the lookout for our match preview tomorrow.