Leicester City hope to keep their fairy tale alive a little longer
Leicester City head into the second leg of their last 16 Champions League tie with Sevilla in their best form of the season.
The match might not prove as memorable as last campaign's Premier League parade over Everton, or as pivotal as the 3-1 win over fellow relegation candidate Hull City last time out, but there's no denying it's the most glamorous fixture in the Foxes' 133-year history.
City trail 2-1 from the first leg, but Jamie Vardy's away goal means they are very much in the tie, much to visiting boss Jorge Sampaoli's frustration. Sevilla really should have killed off the tie in Spain and a rejuvenated Foxes could make them pay.
The match marks Craig Shakespeare's debut as full-time Leicester manager and he deserves his place in the dugout -- at least in the short term. Shakespeare has brought passion and stability back to the club and in his two wins thus far, City have once again looked like Premier League champions.
Having put three past Liverpool and Hull, Leicester will certainly fancy their chances of scoring. However, the focus, at least to begin with, must be on keeping Sevilla out. Wes Morgan and Robert Huth could be in for a long night and getting to half-time without conceding should probably be the first goal.
Sampaoli might rue Claudio Ranieri's sacking since Leicester will now line up in a far simpler, yet more potent, 4-4-2, probably unchanged from the Hull game. That means Shinji Okazaki will be preferred ahead of the now fit Islam Slimani or Leonardo Ulloa.
Despite scoring in Seville, Vardy actually had very few touches and wasn't given many opportunities to run in behind. The key to victory will be Danny Drinkwater and Wilfred Ndidi -- neither of whom looked especially assured in the first leg -- winning quick ball and setting Vardy free as early as possible. Sevilla are notorious for their high line and City must look to breach it at every opportunity.
Sevilla have suffered a mini dip in form just as Leicester have hit their peak. The Spanish club have drawn their last two games 1-1 to Alaves and Leganes -- disappointing results that pretty much end their faint La Liga title hopes. The same scoreline would be good enough for a place in the quarterfinals, but City have a lot more firepower than the last two Spanish minnows Sevilla faced.
The King Power Stadium is going to be rocking and the home fans definitely have a vital role to play. There's a real (if potentially deluded) sense that it's just Leicester's fate to progress and if they succeed, there's a high chance of meeting Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.
But Leicester can't get ahead of themselves. Sevilla are a quality side and still start as clear favourites to progress, as Shakespeare will have reiterated during a three-day warm-weather training trip to Dubai last week. Leicester were able to prepare for this showpiece fixture away from the media spotlight and hopefully the travel or dramatic change in climate won't take its toll.
Staying up remains the priority and we all know the Champions League adventure has to end sometime, but it will feel slightly anti-climactic if City do go out, even though that's still very likely.
The competition has been an extremely welcome and appealing break from the doom and gloom of the past six months in the league; knowing a two-legged tie with Sevilla was on the horizon in 2017 gave everyone connected with the club something to look forward to and also kept memories alive from last season. Going out would simply leave Leicester starting a new era with a new manager, 13 points shy of safety.
Progressing, on the other hand, keeps the fairy tale alive and will massively aid the Foxes' bid to stay up since avoiding the drop is all about confidence. Recording three wins on the bounce and dumping out one of Europe's elite sides will undoubtedly give Leicester back their swagger and, with it, almost anything -- even winning the Champions League! -- is well and truly possible.
Ben Jacobs is ESPN FC's Leicester City blogger. Follow him on Twitter @JacobsBen.