Pressure on struggling Ranieri inevitable, says Sampaoli
Sevilla boss Jorge Sampaoli believes Claudio Ranieri’s position as Leicester City boss will undoubtedly come under pressure unless results drastically improve, despite his remarkable success last season.
Leicester travel to face Sevilla in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Wednesday mired in a relegation battle just a year after miraculously defying the odds to win the Premier League.
“Now no one talks about the team that won the league in an incredible and historic way, but of the present when they are not playing well and fighting against relegation,” Sampaoli said on Tuesday.
“Common sense would say that someone who achieved so much from a team with so little can turn the situation around, but time waits for no one, not even someone as good as Ranieri who won the Premier League.”
By contrast, Sevilla are flying in third in La Liga behind only Real Madrid and Barcelona.
However, Sampaoli warned his side against over confidence given Leicester won their group earlier in the campaign in their debut season in the Champions League.
And the Argentine also highlighted a 4-2 win over Manchester City in December as a warning that Leicester are still capable of raising their game on the big occasion.
“They went through comprehensively as winners of their group and in a tie of two games they will be a very tough test for us,” added Sampaoli.
Leicester striker Jamie Vardy scored a hat-trick in that victory over City, but the England international hasn’t netted in nine games since.
However, Sampaoli believes he still poses the major threat to Sevilla’s chances of reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in the Champions League era.
“Vardy was decisive last year and his lack of goals explains Leicester’s current problems. When Vardy starts scoring we will once again see the Leicester that are extremely dangerous.”
Leicester’s disastrous form continued with an embarrassing 1-0 defeat to third tier Millwall in the FA Cup on Saturday.
However, Ranieri is set to recall a host of first team regulars after making 10 changes with the likes of Vardy and Riyad Mahrez set to return.
And German goalkeeper Ron Robert Zieler is hoping Leicester can take advantage of their status of underdogs against a side with far more European pedigree having won the Europa League in each of the last three season.
“We’ll be an underdog, especially how we’re not performing to the levels that we want to,” Zieler told Leicester’s website.
“For a few people, we are the underdog, but that doesn’t have to be bad for us.
“Sevilla have not only done well this season, they have been fantastic in Europe over the last couple of seasons.
“They’ve got a lot of quality players in their squad, but that’s what you expect in the Champions League.”