Mission Impossible? Leicester's Hunt For A Top Four Spot Looks Tougher Than Ever

Brendan Rodgers' Foxes face a tough task if they want to break into the Champions League places this season
18:58, 10 Aug 2021

How do you compete with teams that outspend you at will, have much bigger resources for player wages and have squad depth to challenge in several competitions at once? 

That was the same question that Leicester had to overcome in their miracle Premier League winning season back in 2016, but now they have transformed themselves into a sustained force in the top flight, can they finally break into the Champions League places?

Of course, they have experienced Champions League football, a quarter-final no less, after winning the league under Claudio Ranieri, but over the past two seasons this has been a club that has been so close to securing a top four finish. No luck, just great recruitment and a brilliant manager. 

Last season ended with the joy of an FA Cup win for the first time in the club’s history, and that day at Wembley will never be forgotten. That success has already carried over into this season as the Foxes tasted more Wembley success with the Charity Shield, but there will be an underlying disappointment that they aren’t playing Champions League football this term. 

Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers

Last season ended with the joy of an FA Cup win for the first time in the club’s history, and that day at Wembley will never be forgotten. That success has already carried over into this season as the Foxes tasted more Wembley success with the Charity Shield, but there will be an underlying disappointment that they aren’t playing Champions League football this term. 

If they were, there would be no danger of losing James Maddison to Arsenal, that is for sure. If he does depart, despite some exciting new signings, it is going to be difficult for the Foxes to improve on last term. They only missed out on Champions League football after a final day defeat to Spurs at the King Power, something reminiscent of the season before where they again fell away after a bright start. 

Brendan Rodgers and his side will be desperate to make amends for this disappointment and secure a top four finish, but it looks harder than ever right now for Leicester. An early season leg-break for Wesley Fofana has put him out until next year, Jamie Vardy is another year older and the aforementioned Maddison can’t escape the transfer headlines.

James Maddison
James Maddison

Although Leicester may not necessarily be weaker than they were last season, they will once again have to deal with the difficulties that the Europa League poses. Those long Thursday night trips can take the energy out of players’ legs, and Premier League results can be affected as a result. They managed okay last term, reaching the round of 32, but perhaps that competition should be the priority and a more viable way of reaching the Champions League given what we have seen in the Premier League. 

Champions Manchester City have just spent £100m on one player and don’t look like they are done spending yet, European champions Chelsea are about to secure the signing of Romelu Lukaku for a similar amount of money and already boast a stacked squad, while Manchester United are looking stronger than they have in recent years having brought in Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane. Barring any severe underperformers this term, it seems almost certain that they will make up the top three. 

It seems slightly harsh to write of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool just because they haven’t spent as much, especially given what they showed in spells last season despite their injury crisis. The returning Van Dijk and Joe Gomez, as well as the signing of Ibrahima Konate should stiffen their defence, but all of this spells bad news for Leicester. Can they really finish above any of those four teams? It seems unlikely, even if they have thrilled us in recent years. 

Rodgers is still doing a tremendous job in the East Midlands but perhaps Leicester’s most plausible route to the riches of the Champions League is through the Europa League. With their cup success from last season, who is to say they can’t go all the way in the Europa League this term? 

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