Claudio Ranieri is ready to unleash the ‘Dragon Slayer’ on Porto as Leicester prepare for the first Champions League home game in their 132-year history.
Islam Slimani, the £29 million record signing, is Leicester’s not-so-secret weapon for the visit of Porto with Ranieri hoping the striker can extend his remarkable record against the Portuguese club.
Slimani scored six goals in six appearances against Porto for his former club Sporting Lisbon, which included a strike in August, to earn the colourful nickname from supporters during his three-year spell.
The Algeria international is expected to line up alongside Jamie Vardy on Tuesday night as Leicester bid to seize pole position in Group G, with Ranieri admitting he has already utilised Slimani’s inside knowledge of their opponents.
“Slimani has scored so many times against Porto and I’m sure he will be a threat to them,” he said.
“We spent a lot of money on Slimani and of course he is a goalscorer. But also when he doesn’t score, or will not score, it is okay because he is a hard worker.
“I didn’t know about his nickname but of course I have spoken with him about Porto. We have a lot of respect for them, they are a lot more experienced team in Europe [than Leicester].
“They have played so many matches in the Champions League and are used to staying at the top of their league and have won six titles. We know what happened, we respect them a lot but we also try to win.”
This will be Leicester’s first ever European game at the King Power Stadium and a win over Porto could see them take a huge step towards progression to the knock-out stages.
Leicester’s media room was so packed with television cameras on Monday that a picture of Emile Heskey was knocked off the wall as Ranieri conducted his press conference.
And Ranieri will be hoping the result follows the cycle of their debut in the Champions League, a resounding 3-0 win over Club Brugge.
That victory was preceded by a heavy defeat at Liverpool and the Premier League champions will face Porto aiming to recover from Saturday’s mauling at Manchester United, in which they conceded four goals in 20 minutes.
“Of course the start to the season is a concern. Last season everything was perfect. This season, no. The first chance the opponents score. I’m not happy when my teams don’t react,” said Ranieri.
“We know last season was amazing but now we must forget what happened.
“It will be fantastic on Tuesday for our fans. A lot of them came to Bruges and listened to the [Champions League] music – now a lot more of them can listen. It'll be fantastic to continue the fairytale for them. We hope to show them good football and a victory of course.”
Ranieri has demanded a return to the uncompromising defending of last season, revealing his players are “scared” of the new rules designed to prevent grappling in the penalty area.
Leicester’s defending against set pieces at Old Trafford was dreadful and Ranieri wants a back-to-basics approach. Leicester conceded only 36 league goals in their title triumph.
“I spoke to the players on Sunday and they were scared. The referees speak about not [introducing] a new rule, it's something we're used to doing. I said why change?
“Last season we were one of the best in league and conceded very few goals from the set pieces and now we leave four metres. Now I can’t jump? Now we have to go back to our strength.”
Porto, who beat Roma in the play-off to qualify for the Champions League, drew their opening game with FC Copenhagen and won the competition under Jose Mourinho in 2004.
Iker Casillas, the former Real Madrid goalkeeper, is participating for his 18th consecutive season in the competition.
Leicester (probable): Schmeichel; Hernandez, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs; Mahrez, Drinkwater, Amartey, Albrighton; Vardy, Slimani.