LEICESTER: Leicester City manager Craig Shakespeare believes his team could become the Champions League’s surprise package after they eliminated Sevilla to reach the quarterfinals.
Toiling domestically and beaten 2-1 in the first leg of the last 16 tie, Leicester roared back to win 2-0 in Tuesday’s return leg, sending them into Friday’s last-eight draw.
Shakespeare, promoted following Claudio Ranieri’s dismissal, feels the feat stands “right up there” with last season’s fairytale Premier League title win and said there could be more miracles still to come.
“We know there’s going to be some terrific teams, as in the previous round,” said Shakespeare, who was taking charge of only his fourth game as a manager.
“We have to be delighted with the performance in knocking Seville out, because their record in Europe is there for everyone to see.
“But we’re in there on merit, make no mistake about that. We might just be the surprise team.
“But we know the quality of teams in there is getting down to the real serious business now.”
Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus are among the teams who have already reached the quarterfinals, but Shakespeare said he had no preference regarding Leicester’s next opponents.
Asked if there was a team he was hoping to come up against, he smiled and replied simply: “No.”
Ranieri had been sitting in the away dug-out for Leicester’s defeat in the first leg three weeks ago, only to be dismissed by the club’s Thai owners upon his return to England.
The away goal scored by Jamie Vardy at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan sowed the seeds of Leicester’s second-leg revival and Shakespeare acknowledged Ranieri’s role.
“Claudio will always be fondly remembered by everyone at this football club for what he achieved and helped us achieve,” Shakespeare told reporters in the King Power Stadium press room.
“The performance in the first leg, when Claudio was in charge, gave us the springboard for the result tonight.”
With the King Power rocking in a way that recalled the giddy final weeks of last season, captain Wes Morgan levelled the tie on aggregate by kneeing Riyad Mahrez’s 27th-minute free-kick past Sergio Rico.
It put Leicester in front on away goals and they took the lead outright through Marc Albrighton in the 54th minute, moments after Sergio Escudero had left the home side’s crossbar quivering.
Sevilla lost Samir Nasri to a second red card for aiming a headbutt at Vardy before Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel took center-stage.
The Denmark international conceded a penalty for catching Vitolo with an attempted block, but with Steven N’Zonzi poised to send the tie to extra-time, Schmeichel plunged to his left to save.
Dybala fires Juve past depleted Porto
In Turin, a first half penalty from Paulo Dybala helped fire Juventus into the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday after a 1-0 win sent the Serie A champions through 3-0 on aggregate.
Porto coach Nuno Espirito Santo had hailed Juve’s 20-game unbeaten home run in Europe as he played down the Portuguese side’s chances of overturning a 2-0 first leg defeat at the Estadio do Dragao.
And the 43-year-old was right not to talk up their chances.
Despite enjoying plenty of possession in a first half that saw the hosts squander a number of chances, their bid ended when right-back Maxi Pereira saw red after handling Gonzalo Higuain’s goal-bound shot five minutes before the break.
Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan pointed to the spot and Argentinian playmaker Dybala stepped up to drill into the bottom-right corner as Iker Casillas dived the other way.
Juventus stretched their unbeaten home record in Europe to 21 games — the last time they suffered a home defeat in Europe was a 2-0 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich, in the quarterfinals, in April 2013.
However, Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri warned his side must improve, whoever they are drawn against in the last eight.
“We’ll need a different kind of performance when we come up against better sides,” he said.