Europa League Permutations: Here's How Brendan Rodgers Could Lead Leicester City Into Europe
The Premier League title race, fight for a top-four finish, and battle for survival may be dominating discussion, but there’s another scramble going on: the less publicised contest to be crowned the ‘best of the rest’ - 7th.
Brendan Rodgers incurred the wrath of Celtic fans when he made the controversial decision to dart south of the border down to Leicester City back in February. A stunning treble-treble was on the cards in Scotland, but the lure of the Premier League proved too strong as he replaced the sacked Claude Puel at the helm of the 2015/16 English champions.
Rodgers suffered a defeat to former club Watford in his opening game but he has since stormed back to claim three wins on the spin over Fulham, Burnley, and Bournemouth - the first time the Foxes have achieved this winning streak in the league since the back end of 2017.
The aforementioned pocket of form means that Leicester have catapulted into contention to snatch a Europa League spot, alongside the likes of Wolves and Watford, while Everton and West Ham are also in contention. You could even give Bournemouth an outside chance.
What’s the deal?
Should Leicester finish 7th in the table then they will grab a Europa League qualifying spot, providing that quadruple-chasing Man City triumph in the FA Cup, as the spot would then go to the highest ranked league team that have not already qualified for the competition.
However, should one of the other semi-finalists - Wolves, Watford or Brighton - lift the coveted trophy then one of those three teams will bag the automatic Europa League spot that is reserved for 6th place, whereas the side that actually secures 6th will be forced to go through the early qualifying rounds. This would leave 7th empty handed - at the time of writing 6th seems out of the question for Leicester as they are currently 15 points adrift of Man Utd.
What can happen this weekend?
With Wolves and Watford locking horns at Wembley, Leicester have the chance to leap up one or two places when they travel to relegated Huddersfield on Saturday. A win would catapult the 9th-placed Foxes above Watford into 8th, but should they be victorious by two or more goals the club will jump into 7th - on goal difference - in place of Wolves.
Leicester then host Newcastle, followed by a trip to West Ham, although their final three games are testing tussles against Arsenal, Man City, and Chelsea.
What’s Rodgers’ European record like?
During his time at Liverpool, Rodgers got a taste for both the Champions League and Europa League. Although in all honesty both were forgettable experiences with the Reds faltering in the last-32 of the Europa League (2012/13), then two years later they exited Europe’s premier competition at the group stages.
He also drew a couple of Europa League matches at the start of the 2015/16 season, before he was sacked in October, with replacement Jurgen Klopp leading Liverpool through to the Final.
In his first season at Celtic, the club dropped out of the Champions League in the group stages. They repeated the feat in his second season, but were able to enter the first-round of the Europa League knockout stages, where they lost. A stage they also exit earlier this term.
So, in truth, Rodgers’ European record is pretty grim, something the Northern Irishman will be bidding to change IF he leads Leicester into the Europa League this season.