Leicester struggled to refocus after the emotional FA Cup win over Chelsea and it was tough to play a crucial game just three days later… but the pressure at the top is relentless and Brendan Rodgers is now facing his toughest test
- Leicester have shown for last two seasons that they can compete with the elite
- They beat Manchester United and Chelsea on the way to winning the FA Cup
- Rodgers knows the mental obstacles that ambitious clubs must learn to clear
- After defeat by Chelsea, there is a now real risk Leicester miss the top four again
They have shown for the last two seasons that they can compete with the elite but the real challenge for the Leicester is to prove they can stick around.
The FA Cup winners have the quality — if not the squad depth or financial power — to match the so-called Big Six and in many ways, the club is run better than most of their wealthier rivals.
Leicester’s recruitment is the envy of most across the continent, Brendan Rodgers is a high-class coach and the connection between owners, players and fans is virtually unique at this level. The Foxes now work in a state-of-the-art, £90million training ground, one of the best in Europe.
Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester have proved they can compete with the elite in the Premier League
Yet the next test centres on one of Rodgers’ favourite words — mentality. Playing such an important match three days after winning a cup final is not easy, but these are the obstacles that ambitious clubs must learn to clear.
In this respect, Leicester’s first-half display at Stamford Bridge was troubling. Chelsea appeared quicker, hungrier. Rodgers’ team looked as though they were struggling to refocus after the emotional 1-0 win over Chelsea at Wembley.
Rodgers, who understands the pressure of working for huge institutions having managed Celtic and Liverpool, has urged his players to think like a big club.
‘What I’ve tried to do from day one is deliver a message for us to feel that pressure to perform,’ he said earlier in the season.
Kelechi Iheanacho set up a nervy finale after pulling a goal back in the 76th minute
‘We know our budget is different to what a so-called top-six club’s would be but I want us to feel that pressure to keep pushing and developing. There’s a huge shift in mindset to be challenging and to disrupt the top six. You don’t just click your fingers and it happens. It’s something they are getting better at.
‘The people and fans at Leicester are realistic but the club showed when they won the title that everything is possible and that sense of realism should never stop us dreaming.
‘If you come in each day trying to be better, you never know where it can take you.’
The Leicester striker capitalised on sloppy play from Chelsea to give themselves a lifeline
Leicester have shown they can handle one part of that equation by beating Manchester United and Chelsea on the way to winning the FA Cup for the first time in their 137-year history.
They have beaten each of the six clubs who plotted a European Super League, proving they are not overawed in the one-off duels.
Yet can Leicester keep coming back? They finished fifth last term — despite spending the majority of it in the top four — and have been in the upper reaches throughout this time.
At the top, the pace is relentless. It will be fascinating to see how Leicester continue to deal with that.
A scuffle broke out near the sidelines in the dying moments at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday