Leicester City’s almost perfect Champions League campaign came to an abrupt end on Wednesday night, as the Foxes suffered the worst defeat for an English side in the history of the competition, losing 5-0 at Porto.
Claudio Ranieri’s side had won four and drawn one of their first five Champions League games, ensuring that the club progressed into the last 16 before the final game had even been played.
Having already won the group, Ranieri made the choice to make 10 changes to his team, a decision that did not pay off.
Andre Silva headed Porto into a six minute lead to give the home side a great start, before Jesus Corona volleyed home after 26 minutes to double their advantage. A third was added before the break through Yahim Brahimi, who back-heeled home.
A second half penalty conversion from by Silva, and a late Diogo Jota finish rounded off a perfect evening for the Portuguese side, and a nightmarish one for their English counterparts.
Speaking after the game, Ranieri bemoaned his fringe players failure to take their chance when it was given to them.
“I decided to change the team – the result is my fault. My players lost a very great chance to show me their best.
“I have no regrets because I wanted to give an opportunity to all my players.”
Jamie Vardy and Rihad Mahrez were two of the Foxes star players who were rested for the game, with Ranieri clearly having one eye firmly locked on Saturday’s tricky Premier League encounter with Manchester City at the King Power Stadium.
“If I needed to win or draw, I would bring all my first team to fight.
“But when you know there is another difficult match Saturday against Manchester City and you are top of the group, why not give a chance to players who say ‘why don’t I play? We are losing in the Premier League, give me a chance’.
“For this reason, I give a chance to them. That’s it. Then, the result is my fault but they missed a great chance.”
The club currently find themselves on a winless run of five games, a worrying contrast when compared to their remarkable fairytale title winning season last year.
The pressure is mounting on Ranieri to turn the clubs fortunes around, with his side sat only two places and two points outside of the relegation zone going into a busy Christmas period.
“Of course [the owner] is not happy – no-one at the club is.
“The owner is always behind us, he always tells us how he can help us and is always positive.” Ranieri said.
Leicester will only have to wait until Monday to find out who they face in the last-16 of the Champions League, and regardless of current form in the league, it’s an extraordinary feat for them to be there in the first place.