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2017/2018 Season

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 By Ian Holyman

Riyad Mahrez: Impossible for Leicester City to win Champions League

Leicester City star Riyad Mahrez believes that the Premier League champions are up against it in their bid to win the Champions League, telling SFR Sport it is "impossible."

Leicester will face Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals of the Champions League having already upset the odds by reaching the last eight in their maiden campaign in the competition.

With Leicester having secured a shock Premier League title last term, few are willing to write them off, but Mahrez believes he and his teammates simply cannot compete with Europe's elite.

"We're capable of the best and the worst. We won the league last year when no-one believed in us, no-one expected us. This season, we're in the quarter-finals even though we're 14th, 15th in the Premier League," last season's PFA Players' Player of the Year said.

"We're a crazy team, we can do everything. We're capable of going I don't know where. I'm not saying we can win the Champions League, because for me it's impossible, but we'll see, we're capable of everything."

Riyad Mahrez has scored four Champions League goals this season.

Mahrez reserved praise for midfielder N'Golo Kante, who left the club for Chelsea last summer after playing a decisive role in their title glory.

"We're not going to talk too much about N'Golo, everyone sees what he does at Chelsea," said Mahrez, who had first encountered Kante while playing in France's second division.

"It's true N'Golo helped us a lot last year. Everyone talked about Vardy and me, but I think N'Golo was at the same level or even better than us. He's an exceptional player.

"I had already seen him, played against him two or three times, Le Havre - Caen, and I didn't think he was so good. He shocked us all, he left a big mark here."

Mahrez also spoke of his respect for manager Claudio Ranieri, who was sacked by the club last month after a poor run of form followed their unlikely title success.

The winger echoed his teammates in denying reports that some players had played a role in Ranieri's departure.

"There are a lot of things said, but when you're not here at the club, you don't know what happens, it makes people talk, judge," said the former Le Havre man, who has helped Leicester win all four of their competitive matches since Ranieri's former assistant, Craig Shakespeare, took charge.

"I understand, there are some people whose job it is to talk, to criticise, or debate. I don't think we wanted to see the coach leave with what we had experienced with him, what we had won.

"There will always be wrong things said, but people at the club know what happened. I think the president didn't want him any more and so sacked him, but it takes nothing away from his qualities and what he did with us. As I said, I was sad to see him leave, but that's football, you have to go forward.

"It doesn't mean anything. There's always a shock when someone leaves. Perhaps sub-consciously people say to themselves that it's a fresh start, there's perhaps more intensity in training, maybe it did us good in matches, there are several things to take into account. Personally, for me and for the rest of the team too as I've been with them for three-and-a-half years, we've always been the same under Claudio or 'Shakey.'"

Ian is ESPN's French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman


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