Four reasons why Foxes are not flying
Leicester are struggling to replicate last season's form
LEICESTER CITY v PORTO
(Tomorrow, 2.45am, Singtel TV Ch 111 & StarHub TV Ch 203)
Defending Premier League champions Leicester City are again turning to Europe for solace, as they hope to clinch back-to-back Champions League victories when they meet Porto tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
But their domestic woes suggest things will get worse before they get better.
Manager Claudio Ranieri has to sort out a few things if the English champions want to emerge victorious in their first top-tier European home game in their 132-year history.
1 DODGY DEFENCE
For a team who finished with the joint-third (same with Arsenal) best defensive record last season (36 goals conceded, behind Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United's 35), Leicester have been appalling in their own penalty box this term.
Central pairing Wes Morgan and Robert Huth, so commanding in the heart of the backline in their run to the title, have looked static this season, while fullbacks Christian Fuchs and Danny Simpson have often been caught out by opponents.
The Foxes have already conceded four goals on three occasions, twice in the Premier League to Liverpool and Man United (both 4-1), and once to Chelsea (4-2) in the League Cup.
Their defensive showing in the loss to Man United last Saturday was particularly worrying, as they let in three goals from corner-kicks.
Manager Claudio Ranieri was at a loss to explain his side's collapse.
He said: "It is not possible to concede three goals from corners.
"That means you are not concentrating. We are usually very solid at corners and free-kicks, it was very strange."
Some suggest that the Foxes are also slow to react to law changes that see referees toughening up on blocking and shirt-pulling in the penalty area.
Simpson feels the amended rules have affected the players psychologically and that they must adapt fast.
He said: "The way it was last season, I thought we were very good at defending set-pieces and we made it tough for the opponents.
"You have been doing that for all your career and suddenly you have got to change it."
2 KANTE SORELY MISSED
He may be struggling to settle in at Chelsea, but N'Golo Kante earned widespread praise when the Foxes stormed their way to the title last season.
One of the best players of the 2015/16 campaign, his rapid rise also saw him force his way into Didier Deschamps' France side which finished runners-up at Euro 2016.
Kante's absence has been keenly felt by Morgan and Co. ever since he made the move to Chelsea for a fee of £32 million ($56.3m) during the summer.
Leicester are missing him in defensive midfield, where his tireless shifts offered crucial protection to a backline lacking in pace.
Last season, Kante made more tackles (175) and interceptions (156) than any other player in the English top flight.
Where opponents found tough to carve out space in front of the Leicester defence previously, they are enjoying much more freedom on the ball.
Their vulnerability in the space between defence and midfield was clearly evident in their opening game 2-1 defeat by Hull City, where Robert Snodgrass scored the winner from an area where Kante would probably have been patrolling.
3 GOAL-SHY FOXES
As the defence held the fort last season, Leicester's offence was also firing on all cylinders.
The attacking brilliance of winger Riyad Mahrez and striker Jamie Vardy, both of whom made it to the top five of the Premier League scoring chart, lit up the championship.
The goals haven't totally dried up, but they certainly aren't living up to the standards they set for themselves.
If anything, the results have exposed the team's over-reliance on the pair in the final third of the field - they accounted for 41 of the side's 68 league goals.
Mahrez's 17 goals, which made him the fifth-highest scorer, has enjoyed a mixed start to this campaign.
He has scored just once - from the spot - in the league (excluding the two goals in the 3-0 Champions League win over Club Brugge).
Vardy, whose tally of 24 goals was only one behind Premiership top scorer Harry Kane last season, has netted twice (excluding one in the Community Shield against Man United).
Considering that he set a new record of scoring in 11 consecutive Premier League matches less than a year ago, the England striker's tally so far is a far cry from the prolific record he set, even if his performances haven't been exactly awful.
4 TOO PREDICTABLE
Leicester might have spearheaded the return to fashion of the 4-4-2 in the Premier League, but they are in danger of becoming too predictable.
Ranieri built a fit and cohesive side that stayed compact, with an emphasis on retreating to contain the pressure rather than retaining the ball.
With the speedy Vardy at the tip, the soak-and-strike strategy worked wonders.
But opponents have learnt that by sitting back themselves, they can restrict Leicester's ability to counter-attack.
A fine example of them being a one-trick pony was during Saturday's match against Man United, where they tried time and again to breach United's defence through the centre, by capitalising on Vardy's pace.
But the threat was repeatedly and easily snuffed out.
The recent signing of Islam Slimani for a club-record fee of £29m is an attempt to add another dimension to their offence, but it is too early to tell if it will work.
The 1.88m-tall striker is superb in the air, a quality which Vardy lacks.
But the viability of the aerial route as a second prong depends very much on crosses from the flanks, which Leicester are not particularly known for.
Mahrez and Marc Albrighton are not classic wingers, as they often cut inside, while the fullbacks Fuchs and Simpson don't often overlap.
Live up to your nickname, Slimani
Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri wants "Dragon Slayer" Islam Slimani to live up to his billing, when the Foxes host Porto in the Champions League tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
The striker (above) picked up the nickname at former club Sporting Lisbon, having scored five goals in his last three games against Porto, who are called the Dragons.
He netted in his final appearance for Sporting, against Porto, when they won 2-1 last month before he completed a club record £29 million ($51m) move to Leicester on deadline day.
The Portuguese side, the 2004 Champions League winners, visit the King Power Stadium already trailing the Foxes by two points in Group G after the opening round of fixtures.
Slimani scored twice on his Premier League debut for Leicester, a 3-0 win over Burnley and, while Ranieri was unaware of his nickname, he knows the Algeria international has put Porto to the sword before.
He said: "He's a goalscorer and has scored a lot of goals against Porto and I'm sure he'll be a threat to them.
"Slimani scores so many times against Porto, so they must be thinking if he's going to play or not!
"Yes, I spoke with him about Porto. We have a lot of respect for Porto, they are a more experienced team in Europe than us.
"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 in the last 10 years.
"We respect them a lot, but we also try to win. Both teams want to win."
Leicester won their opening Champions League game 3-0 at Club Brugge two weeks ago, as Porto drew 1-1 with FC Copenhagen, after a heavy 4-1 defeat by Liverpool.
This time, they head into the game having lost 4-1 to Manchester United after conceding three goals from corners.
Referees have been told to stamp down on holding and grappling in the box this season and, while Ranieri insisted it is not a new rule, he admitted his players are now scared about conceding penalties.
Turkish official Cuneyt Cakir, who takes charge tomorrow morning, has handed out 11 yellow cards and one red in his last two games.
"Yes, we concede a lot of goals," Ranieri said. "I spoke to the players yesterday and they were scared. What the referees speak about is not a new rule, it's something we're used to doing. I said, why change?
"Last season, we were one of best in league and conceded very few goals from the set-pieces and now we leave four metres. Now I can't jump? We have to go back to our strengths."
Kasper Schmeichel could return after a muscle strain, but Nampalys Mendy continues to be sidelined with an ankle injury. - PA Sport.