Leicester City begin the post-Claudio Ranieri era on Monday night when they host Liverpool at the King Power Stadium.
With the Foxes perilously close to the relegation places in the Premier League the Italian was given his marching orders on Thursday afternoon – but the timing of the dismissal (less than 24 hours after playing Sevilla in the Champions League), possibly more so than the dismissal itself, has caused general surprise and, in some quarters, outrage.
Last season’s champions are 17th in table, and with all of their relegation rivals playing before them, they could theoretically be bottom of the table by the time their next match rolls around.
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp, who was due to face Ranieri on Monday but will now instead see interim boss Craig Shakespeare in the opposing dugout, was as surprised as anyone that Leicester had sacked Ranieri, even placing it among the biggest shocks of the past twelve months.
Speaking to reporters on Friday ahead of next week’s match, Klopp said:
“What can I say? Am I surprised that things like this can happen? No. It is not only football. For me there have been a few strange decisions in 16/17: Brexit, Trump, Ranieri,
“Do I have to understand it all the time – obviously not. I have no idea why Leicester did this. Everyone could see the situation in the league, the situation in the Champions League – which we are not in.
“He is a really special person in this business, a really nice guy. I met him before when he visited me at Dortmund and we had a nice talk. He is a wonderful person.
“Maybe you have to go to Leicester and ask them why they did it.”
Klopp had already suggested that he expects to face a different Leicester on Monday, one that is more aware that they are in a relegation dogfight where each point is vital, but is now not sure as to how much that mentality may have changed:
“Does it change a lot for us? Not sure, we will see. I told the players at the beginning of the week Leicester now know exactly what the problem is and we should expect the best Leicester City.
“You saw the Champions League game and the reaction after they scored: it was like two different games before and after they scored. Obviously they needed this goal to get confidence back. We have to think about this side and that is difficult enough.”
Liverpool arguably need the points just as much as Leicester do at this time, as they look to maintain ground in the battle for the Champions League places. Therefore, Monday night’s result could have a huge bearing on both ends of the table.