It feels like an entire season has passed since our 2-1 win at the Sanchez Pizjuan. We’ve been stuck in neutral, grinding out wins from poor performances against Betis and Athletic before a combination of yellow card suspensions and questionable squad rotation cost us 4 points against Alaves and Leganes. Leicester, on the other hand, fired a man that probably deserves a statue outside their stadium and promoted a guy named Shakespeare. I’m sure there’s a fine literary parallel to Leicester suddenly regaining last year’s form, but I slept through most of my high school English classes so look elsewhere for that.
It’s even more frustrating now that we failed to score more than two after completely dominating at the Sanchez Pizjuan. And we gifted Leicester a late goal on top of that. I can’t imagine Sampaoli will come out trying to defend a one goal lead in the tie like he did against Lyon (and I know many of us will call for his head if he even thinks about starting Kranevitter), so I expect us to come out attacking. An early goal would be fantastic, but an away goal is a necessity. Nasri’s had a mini-vacation, so he should be fresh. Sampaoli has decided to take 20 players with him to England, with Carrico and Vietto being the guys left out over Ganso for some reason.
We know Rico will be in goal. Mariano’s been shaky lately, but I’d still be surprised if Mercado started over him. Rami and Pareja should be at CB. Escudero and Vitolo will be back on the left side after resting on the weekend. Nasri and Nzonzi are obvious. Jovetic has to start up top. So again, we’re left with two spots. For me, it has to be Sarabia and Ben Yedder. I wouldn’t be mad seeing one of Mudo or Iborra over Ben Yedder, but this is not the match to start Tucu or Kranevitter.
Leicester has healthy squad to choose from, and if their recent lineups are any indication, the one change they will make is going back to a 4-4-2 with Okazaki coming in for Musa, who was awful against us, which pushes Mahrez back to the wing after he played more of a second striker role in the first leg. Islam Slimani will be available on the bench, and he’ll be a serious aerial threat if Leicester is chasing a goal late in the match. Nampalys Mendy is the only guy out, but he’s been pretty useless anyways.
We’ve put ourselves in a position to make history. The result at home did not reflect the quality of our performance. Sampaoli has taken steps over the last week to ensure that we have the fittest squad available. The environment will be hostile. The crowd will be raucous. But we have marched into hostile environments across Europe over the past few years, and each time we came away with the result we needed. Nothing scares this team. VAMOS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!