Club captain Kasper Schmeichel is confident Leicester City can mount another strong season of competing on multiple fronts, given the quality within the squad.
Serie A outfit Napoli arrive at Leicester City Stadium on Thursday evening for the opening Group C encounter of the 2021/22 UEFA Europa League, as the Foxes prepare to begin back-to-back European campaigns.
The team’s ambitions are not limited to just one competition, as Schmeichel explains, and although aware of the talent within a pool which also contains Spartak Moscow and Legia Warsaw, City’s focus is on how they can display their own quality.
Speaking in Thursday afternoon’s pre-match press conference from inside the King Power Centre at LCFC Training Ground, the Denmark international said: “It’s the same as last time around, we want to get as far as we can in the competition.
“It’s a competition we feel that we have a chance to go far in. European football isn’t easy to achieve, so we’re going to make the most of it. It’s never been our approach to look at others, we look at ourselves more than anything.
“When I look into our dressing room, I always have every reason to be supremely confident against any opponent. There are, without question, top-class sides in this competition and there will be top-class sides coming in from the Champions League.
“For us, the most important thing we’ve always done is look inwards and we have within ourselves and what we can do.”
Unlike last term, the Blue Army will be present to enjoy the experience of European nights under the lights on Filbert Way. Schmeichel believes this will add a lot to the occasion and could help spur the Foxes on to challenge further in the tournament.
Expand photo Kasper Schmeichel City’s club captain answered questions from the media during the pre-match presser.
A key figure in the team that reached the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals, with a memorable home success over Sevilla sealing their spot in the last eight, the shot-stopper knows just what a difference the supporters can make.
The squad must also apply themselves in the correct way and be on top of their game, however, coming up against a top-class Napoli outfit who boast significant European pedigree and have enjoyed a 100 per cent domestic record under Luciano Spalletti so far this term.
“I’m hoping for another special night,” he told the media. “We haven’t had too many of them. The ones we have had, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.
“Last season being in the competition without fans, that sort of detracted a little bit from the experience, not just for the players, but obviously the fans missing out on those kind of evenings.
“They are always special and it’s another very big club coming. A side that have, in the last 10 to 15 years, been challenging some of the biggest teams in the world and in Italy. We’re expecting a tough game.
“They’ve got quality all over the pitch. You know they’re a very good side and can be dangerous for us, so we’ve been working very, very hard this week to make sure we’re ready for that.
“We’ve had a decent start to the season, we’ve had some tough games, been in some tough situations, but overall we are finding our feet, finding our rhythm and tomorrow is a great opportunity for us to get more game time and get that rhythm going better ahead of the weekend.
“It hasn’t been a blistering start but we’re building.”
Although City bowed out of the competition at the last-32 stage last term, losing over two legs to Czech Republic champions Slavia Prague, silverware was achieved in the form of the Emirates FA Cup – completing the Club’s domestic honours list alongside the Premier League, League Cup and Community Shield.
And a second consecutive fifth-place finish in the Premier League secured a return to the Europa League for 2021/22, providing another chance to try and add to the burgeoning trophy collection.
Expand photo Kasper Schmeichel The shot-stopper takes part in a group exercise during training at LCFC Training Ground on Wednesday morning.
“If someone had offered me fifth and the FA Cup at the start of the season, I would have taken that any day of the week,” the 34-year-old added, reflecting briefly on the achievements of the previous campaign. “For me, football is about winning trophies and we did that last season.
“I only look back on that with fond memories and as a success. We are in a very, very good place. We have had a lot of recent success. The Club continues to show it in the backing, in the training ground, in the expansion of the stadium, in the transfer market.
“The Club is always looking to improve and get better and that’s the most important thing to me.
“The hunger is still there, you can’t become complacent, because that’s when you take the foot off the gas. We’ve always got to be looking for what’s next. We can’t use the past for anything, it’s done. For us, it’s always about looking forward and what is next.
“There are many steps that we can still take and we’re looking to improve every single day. This season is another opportunity. We’re in four competitions again that are all within a scope for us.”
All times BST.