Leicester boss Craig Shakespeare is looking forward to the “massive challenge” of facing Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
The Foxes’ progress on their debut in Europe’s elite club competition has gone some way to rivalling the shock value of their Premier League triumph.
After toppling Spanish title challengers Sevilla in the last 16, Leicester will now take on a team who have reached the Champions League final in two of the last three seasons.
Shakespeare told www.lcfc.co.uk: “Facing a team who have reached the final in two of the last three seasons is a massive challenge but it’s just the kind of tie you expect in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
“Atletico Madrid are a very good team with some fantastic individuals with experience in the competition, but we’ll be ready to give everything to progress.”
Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over Sevilla, which gave Leicester a 3-2 aggregate victory, made it three wins in a row since Shakespeare replaced his former boss Claudio Ranieri.
But Shakespeare insisted his side will not take their eye off their Premier League relegation fight in the meantime, starting with Saturday’s trip to London to face West Ham.
He said: “It will be a brilliant occasion for our supporters and for everyone at the club but, before the players can begin to think about these games, we have Premier League matches to come that are of huge significance to our season. They will be our sole focus.”
The Foxes, England’s sole representatives in the competition following the exit of Manchester City and Arsenal, will travel to the Spanish capital in the week beginning April 10, with the second match taking place the following week.
— Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) March 17, 2017
It was perhaps inevitable the sides would be drawn together given that two of Leicester’s four European ties prior to this season were against Atletico.
The Spaniards came out on top of both of them, winning 3-1 on aggregate in the 1961/62 Cup Winners’ Cup before triumphing in both legs of a UEFA Cup tie in 1997 for a 4-1 aggregate victory.
The tie will pit Leicester against one of the most consistent European teams of recent years.
As well as their two Champions League finals – they were beaten by city rivals Real both times, last year on penalties – they also lost to Real in the quarter-finals in 2015 and won the Europa League in 2012.
The one encouraging factor for Leicester is Atletico have not been quite as strong in the league this season and sit fourth in LaLiga, five points behind Sevilla.
Leicester are certainly the surprise name in this season’s last eight, and Atletico director and former defender Clemente Villaverde believes they cannot be underestimated.
He told atleticodemadrid.com: “In the previous tie and in the group stages they have shown they are a team to take account of, and the difficulty that we’re going to have is very high.
“We have a precedent that we played against them in the old UEFA Cup in the 90s and we got through that tie and we hope to follow in the same footsteps.
“They’ve already overcome an opponent like Sevilla, who we know very well. We have the confidence that comes with competing in this competition in recent years and we hope we’re capable of not committing mistakes and doing well.”