Number crunchers offer hope for Leicester City

Leicester City fans will be hoping 'form is temporary, class is permanent' ahead of their Champions League debut.

By: Reuters | London | Published:September 13, 2016 8:25 pm
Champions League Newcomers Leicester City, Premier League defending champions, are given a 34 percent chance at Belgium’s Club Brugge. (Source: File)

Leicester City fans will be hoping ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ ahead of their club’s Champions League debut on Wednesday, and statisticians say they have reason to be optimistic.

According to Gracenote Sports, the Foxes — surprise Premier League champions last season and now 16th with one win from four games — should reach the knockout phase of Europe’s premier competition.

Not only that, but they would appear to have a better chance than 2010-11 quarter-finalists and on-song league rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

Gracenote’s Euro Club Index prediction of the 16 most likely qualifiers from the 32 clubs in the group stages is led, inevitably, by European giants Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and Bayern Munich.

That comes as no surprise, with Barcelona seeking to reach the knockout phase for the 13th season in a row and Real the 20th time in succession — one more than Arsenal.

But Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester, despite being ranked only the 32nd best team in the overall index, appear a surprisingly high 13th thanks to the luck of the draw with Tottenham predicted to qualify also in 16th place.

Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven do not make the cut on the same reckoning.

There are no easy games in international football, however, another old managerial cliche, and upsets are to be expected.

Two or three of the underdogs may have their day in this week’s 16 matches but fans of Celtic, FC Rostov and Sporting Lisbon should not hope for much.

Gracenote give Celtic a one percent chance of winning at Lionel Messi’s Barcelona, Sporting a four percent possibility at Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real.

Leicester, on the other hand, are given a 34 percent chance at Belgium’s Club Brugge.

Opening day shocks can be short-lived, however. In 2012 Belarus side BATE Borisov beat French champions Lille in their first match but neither went through.

And FC Basel’s victory over Chelsea in their 2013 opener also signified little, with the Swiss ending up in the Europa League while the English club progressed as group winners.

Avoiding defeat remains a key factor. Only two of the 13 clubs that lost their opening fixtures last season went through — Arsenal and Manchester City.

Just 10 clubs have gone through after losing their first two group games, two of them English: Arsenal last season and Newcastle United in 2002/03.