Jamie Vardy

Remembering When Simeone’s Atléti Came To Town

One of the most-anticipated and memorable fixtures ever to be hosted at King Power Stadium arrived on Tuesday 18 April, 2017, when Leicester City entertained Atlético Madrid in the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final second leg.
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Filbert Way was no longer a stranger to European nights after the Foxes had won all four of their home Champions League matches against FC Porto, FC Copenhagen, Club Brugge and FC Sevilla before welcoming a familiar foe to their home.

City had already come up against Los Rojiblancos on four occasions leading into their double header in the Champions League Quarter-Finals in 2016/17. They lost 3-1 on aggregate in the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1961, and were beaten 4-1 across two legs in the UEFA Cup in 1997.

The clash in 2017, though, came with an optimism like no other. The champions of England had successfully navigated Group G as top seeds, amassing 13 points from a possible 18 before setting up a last-16 tie with Sevilla.

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Spirited City Narrowly Beaten On Aggregate By Atlético

Leicester City exited the UEFA Champions League at the quarter-finals stage with a 2-1 aggregate defeat by Atlético Madrid on 18 April, 2017.

They trailed 2-1 in the first leg, with Jamie Vardy scoring an all-important away goal at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium before Wes Morgan and Marc Albrighton struck and Kasper Schmeichel saved a penalty at King Power Stadium to send their side into the next round.

Awaiting them were seasoned European outfit Atlético, who, managed by the charismatic Diego Simeone, had reached the Champions League Final in 2013/14 and 2015/16, only to be beaten on both occasions by bitter rivals Real Madrid.

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Diego Simeone

The ex-Atlético midfielder had led his side to two UEFA Champions League Finals in three years.

In Lisbon, in 2014, they had led since the 36th minute thanks to Diego Godín’s effort, but a 93rd-minute goal from Sergio Ramos restored parity before Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo won it for Carlo Ancelotti’s men in extra-time.

Two years later, Atlético dismissed Bayern Munich and Barcelona en route to the final, but at Milan’s San Siro, they lost 5-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra-time.

They had experienced a lot under Simeone, who a day before his side’s clash with Leicester City addressed the media at King Power Stadium just moments before taking a training session on the pitch.

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King Power Stadium

King Power Stadium hosts its fifth UEFA Champions League fixture - a crunch clash with Spanish side Atlético Madrid.

“I don’t think they will renounce the ball, I think they choose to play the way that suits them best consisting the qualities of the players,” he told the press. “With the explosiveness of Vardy, who I like a lot, they are vertical, intense, precise at times. They strengthen the qualities of their players and that is what took them to their place in Europe.”

City’s manager at the time, Craig Shakespeare, also had his say: “Offensively we need to create more, we have to get a goal back, but on the same token we need to be mindful of players the ilk of [Antoine] Griezmann. We have to deny them space because they are a very good counter-attacking team. We are at home, we need to be more forceful than we were (in the first leg), but respectful of the opposition as well.”

Layers of white, blue and gold flags awaited those lucky enough to secure a seat at King Power Stadium in the hope of Leicester City making a sensational surge into the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Light blue skies gently faded to a deep blue blanket of night as fans rushed home from school, college, university and work before making their way to King Power Stadium for a fixture that had been on their mind since the full-time whistle went at the Vicente Calderón just six days earlier.

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Leicester City

The Foxes line up ahead of their clash with Atlético Madrid.

The Foxes were boosted by the return of skipper Morgan, with Shakespeare naming the following XI: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Benalouane, Fuchs, Ndidi, Drinkwater, Albrighton, Mahrez, Okazaki, Vardy.

Simeone, meanwhile fielded: Oblak, Juanfran, Godín, Savić, Luís, Giménez, Koke, Saúl, Carrasco, Gabi, Griezmann.

Both sets of players lined up for their customary pre-match handshake and photo, before, for the fifth time in 2016/17, over 32,000 fans listened to Tony Britten's inspiring adaptation of George Frideric Handel's Zadok the Priest, known more commonly as the Champions League anthem. 

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Leonardo Ulloa

The Argentine striker sees a shot cleared off the line following Jamie Vardy's equaliser.

Knowing one goal would level matters on aggregate, Shinji Okazaki went close with 22 minutes on the clock, but flicked the ball wide while under pressure from Godín, before Saúl Ñíguez headed back across goal and into the bottom corner to net a crucial away goal for the visitors.

Shortly before the break, Jan Oblak saved from Riyad Mahrez, while substitute Ben Chilwell, introduced at half-time, fired a half-volley over the bar as City searched for a goal that would give them hope against the Spanish team.

Indeed, Chilwell threatened again just after the hour mark as his deflected shot fell to Vardy, who side-footed into the top corner to make it 1-1 and set up a grandstand finish on Filbert Way.

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Marc Albrighton

Marc Albrighton, scorer of a crucial goal against FC Sevilla in the last-16, applauds the crowd after the Foxes bow out of the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League.

Leicester still needed two more goals to advance, but as proved a year earlier, City were not one to back down from a challenge, and just moments after Vardy’s strike, were it not for a last-ditch block from Lucas Hernandez, another substitute, Leonardo Ulloa, would have put the hosts ahead on the night.

In a frantic few minutes, Vardy was next to see a shot blocked, this time by former Manchester City defender Stefan Savić, but for all of their second-half opportunities, their Champions League fairytale came to an end.

However, despite the feeling of disappointment, the Blue Army were able to proudly to say they watched their side contest a Champions League Quarter-Final tie against one of the most fearsome teams in European football.

Leicester City Crest

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