25 May 2022 | 08:07 | Football
It was the second day of the night before Brendan Rodgers was back at Leicester City’s training ground.The sun is shining and all is well, seeing his late turnaround in Eindhoven Team advances to Europa League semi-finals.
Rodgers is proud of his performance. “With 20 minutes to go, we’re down 1-0 and we’re still calm,” he told sky sports. “We played some great football.” But as he began to reflect on a special night, other memories of the past 24 hours came back.
“Seeing the joy of the players and staff afterwards and sharing the moment with the supporters. We stayed a night so back at the hotel and all our staff were there, eating together. That was fantastic. Just happy this Everything, really.”
1,600 supporters were there to watch, and many more are now planning to travel to Rome for the last four games. “We saw some supporters staying at the hotel in the morning. That’s the joy. That’s what it gives you. The supporters love it, which is great.”
All of this makes one wonder what the atmosphere would have been like if Leicester had not made a comeback. There were 13 minutes left when James Madison equalized. There were two minutes of normal time left when Ricardo Pereira won for his side.
Both scorers started the game, but Ayoze Perez, the player who set the equalizer, didn’t. Neither did Ademola Lookman, whose moves played a big part in the winner. Thanks to the head coach’s active substitution, the game was won.
“I felt like we had to make a change. We played well in the game, then we conceded a sloppy goal and then we had some really good chances. I said to the players at half-time, it’s unfortunate , there is no second chance when you’re in that situation.”
Harvey Barnes was addicted, and so was Marc Albrighton. Lookman and Patson Daka play. “We played with two strikers, Mads started on the wing. Pats played with Vardy and they were our best pressurers at the top of the pitch.
“It always dictates the rhythm.”
Rodgers wanted to “change the dynamic from the start of the first half and then see how it goes before making more changes” – which he did when introducing Perez to Kelechi Iheanacho midway through the second half, but still trailed.
“That’s the idea. Once we got the Pats up and running in the game, that’s what it’s like to refocus the extra body in the game.” Madison switched positions again. “They play with two flat midfielders so he can get in behind.”
It’s perfect for the first goal. Perez fed Madison the ball into the net. “In Ayoze’s position, I just think we need the guy in that half. He hasn’t been doing much lately, but he’s been training well and I think he’s great.”
The Lookman’s ability in tight areas is crucial for the second.
“They scored, so they were 1-0 up, sitting deeper, so there wasn’t a lot of room behind. They were sitting at the back to protect the lead. Then I looked at a guy who could move more freely inside and out. “
Just as he planned, so?
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” Rogers said with a smile.
“I do go into the game with my own script, anticipating what may and may not happen. I take some notes and discuss it with my staff. Before the game starts, you always think about it. It will How it develops, and how it might not.
“Then it comes down to the feel of the game.
“But you need players to be adaptable and flexible to what you want them to do.”
You need them available too.
No Premier League team has lost more time to injury this season than Leicester City. Not everyone wanted to hear about it at the worst of this winter, when they won three of 14 games in the Premier League and exited the Europa League.
But the impact on performance is huge.
In some cases, the effect is obvious. The extraordinary Wesley Fofana made his Premier League debut this season only earlier this month and is sorely missed. Elsewhere, the consequences of disruption are more subtle.
“There’s a snowball effect because other players have to take a risk and you want them to get through it and then they don’t. There’s this ongoing knock-on effect. Some people end up playing more than you want when they’re tired and it takes away The intensity of our game.
“It’s only now that we’re getting players back. Being able to make seven changes against Crystal Palace really shows we have players coming back. We have a core now, even though we still have one or two players, and I can trust the squad.”
Palace were beaten, but that rotation was also crucial in PSV’s later stages. “That choice allowed us to recover our players against PSV. In the last 15 minutes of the game, this physicality, that physicality, helped us to win.”
Expect more rotations in the coming weeks.
“I just realise how long some of these players have been out. Wesley, James Justin, Ricardo Pereira, Timothy Castagne – these are the ones we have to watch out for. Whether we No matter what kind of team you send, they’re going to be a tight, aggressive team.
“I’m not in any game to win. It’s more of a physical requirement, especially against a team that’s had a week off. We’ll keep fighting, always field a team to get results, but for us the team has to It’s stressful and must be done physically.
“I now have a team that I trust and we have to manage that too because we play almost every mid-week and it’s been a while. You can’t ask the same players to do that. Well, you can. But risk Damage goes up, levels go down.”
Live Renault Super Sunday
Rodgers made all the right noises against Newcastle on Sunday about the need for a ‘strong finish’ in the Premier League and volunteered figures from their three games at Wolves, who are above them 9 points.
But he is well aware that with only nine games remaining this season, there are limits to what can be achieved in this competition. “The reality for us is that eighth is the highest finish we can accomplish right now,” he said. Leicester City’s chances for more glory lie elsewhere.
This is a team with taste right now.
“What we’re trying to bring to the club is a winning mentality. It’s something you build every day. In the last three seasons we’ve reached three semi-finals, won the FA Cup final and the Community Shield. There is A chance to win more.”
There have been tough times in between, but a season that started with trophy celebrations at Wembley could end with the club’s first European honours. “The top 10 and the final will be a fantastic season considering everything we’ve been through.
“Hopefully this is a happy ending for us.”
Watch Newcastle United v Leicester City in the Premier League on Sky Sports from 1.30pm on Easter Sunday; 2.15pm