It looked as though when Brendan Rodgers was six months into his tenure at Leicester City that the Foxes were nailed on for Champions League football. Despite Liverpool cruising to the title they had put up a valiant effort at Anfield and had it not been for a James Milner penalty, they would have walked away from the champions-elect with a point. Third at Christmas, the return fixture against the Reds proved to be the untangling of Rodgers’ side in 2019-20, a far cry from the team that demolished Southampton 9-0 as Liverpool put them to the sword at the King Power Stadium.
The coronavirus pandemic proved to be the turning point and further inconsistency exposed the cracks in Leicester’s side — Jesse Lingard’s late winner for Manchester United ensuring the Foxes would finish fifth and miss out on playing in the Champions League for the first time since they won the title four years before.
The following season came around, starting later than usual due to the obvious difficulties enforced by covid. Leicester once again made a fast start and were one of the favourites in the latest odds for top four, but injuries took their toll on a depleted squad, and once again the East Midlands was the scene for Rodgers’ capitulation. Harry Kane was ravenous as Spurs fired home five at Filbert Street and left the Foxes in Europa League, before exiting early to play in the maiden Conference League.
It proved to be short lived and even though they won the 2020 FA Cup, Rodgers is in danger of tainting his image as one of the brightest managers in the league. It seems as though this current crop of players have been taken as far as they can go, and with the old guard ageing — Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel will both be 36 by the end of the season — as well as star players James Maddison and Youri Tielemans getting itchy feet over their futures, what next for Leicester?
The lack of European football provides Rodgers with a clean slate. While he’s made no signings yet, he’s retained the core of his squad thus far which will be boosted by the return of Wesley Fofana and Ricardo Pereira. While the lack of pulling power will be disappointing, Rodgers has said the one upside to Leicester’s underwhelming campaign last time out is that it provides them with a chance to start over.
“It’s the only upside to not being in Europe, that you do get the chance to go again,” he said. “It’s similar to when I first came in. You’ve got that great body of work you can put in place and reset everything, including the behaviours off the pitch. That structure is important.
“It’s resetting all of that off the pitch as well as on the pitch. I always said, one game a week is a holiday, but let’s hope it’s a good holiday and we can really push on again.”
The Foxes start their campaign away at Arsenal, then return home for Southampton in a gruelling first month which also sees them play Chelsea and Manchester United.
The last time a Champions League game was hosted under the lights at the King Power was April 2016. And it seems like some time before the likes of Porto and Atlético Madrid will fly into East Midlands airport again for a trip to LE2.