February 27, 2017 / 8:32 PM / in 10 months

Emotional night as Leicester begin post-Ranieri era

LEICESTER, England (Reuters) - Leicester City fans trudged towards the King Power Stadium for Monday’s crucial home clash against Liverpool still reeling from last week’s sacking of title-winning manager Claudio Ranieri.

Soccer Football - Sevilla v Leicester City - UEFA Champions League Round of 16 First Leg - Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, Seville, Spain - 22/2/17 Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri after the match Action Images via Reuters / John Sibley Livepic

Murals of the popular Italian, who led the club to the most improbable of Premier League titles last May, still adorn walls surrounding the ground and many fans were sporting Ranieri face masks in the build-up to the 2000 GMT kickoff.

While some celebrated the 65-year-old’s achievement with banners and chants, others mourned his passing.

One fan was photographed driving a black hearse around the streets surrounding the stadium with flowers arranged in the windows spelling out “RIP Football”.

Inside the stadium, a banner read “Grazie Claudio” while a rendition of the opera classic “Nessun Dorma” was played over the loudspeakers, stirring memories of Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli singing on the day Leicester were presented with the title.

The programme notes penned by Leicester’s Thai chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha offered his thoughts on the “painful” sacking that shocked English football last Thursday.

“We made the most difficult decision we have ever had to make in seven years with Leicester City,” he wrote.

“I don’t expect everybody to understand it and I know that some people are angry about it. But we have to think about the club’s long-term interests and the best way to bring the club we love forward.”

He also paid tribute to Ranieri’s “warmth, charm and good humour”.

Emotions aside, the immediate priority for Leicester is to retain their top-flight status.

After five consecutive defeats they began Monday’s game in the bottom three following results at the weekend.

Ranieri’s former assistant, 53-year-old Craig Shakespeare, was in charge on Monday and is among the candidates to replace Ranieri on a full-time basis.

Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Clare Fallon

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