Rodgers, Leicester bullish on top 4 hopes

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Brendan Rodgers is trying hard to keep his feet on the ground, but his Leicester City team keep on rolling week after week and remain firmly in the top four.

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After their 2-1 win at top six hopefuls Aston Villa, Rodgers tried to contain his excitement as his young team won for the 15th time this season to rise to second place in the table.

With 13 games to go, Leicester are six points above fifth-place Chelsea but they had a similar cushion on those outside the top four last season yet faded badly to finish fifth.

Rodgers told Sky Sports that they’ve learned valuable lessons from last season.

“We were able to go in and reflect on last season and go through it in preseason. There’s a greater calmness. We’re playing some great football, but at times you have to dig in and have spirit, and we were able to do that,” Rodgers said.

Harvey Barnes, who is superb form with three goals in his last five games, believes if the Foxes can keep their form going then they have a real chance of UEFA Champions League qualification.

“We’re in a similar position to last season but of course we’ve had a lot of injuries. If we can maintain this form we’ll give ourselves the best possible chance,” Barnes told Sky Sports.

How are Leicester different this season?

You can always say ‘oh, but what happens if Vardy gets injured?’ and that is still true.

But even if that was to happen you’d fancy James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho and Youri Tielemans to produce enough goals to keep them in the top four.

And that is the biggest difference this season.

Vardy, 34, is still their leading goalscorer with 14 in all competitions and his importance to the way they play, aside from his goals, is clear for all to see. But Barnes has 13 goals and Maddison has 11 this season already, up from seven and nine respectively last season.

At the other end of the pitch, Leicester have much better squad depth and their defensive injuries have been constant and plentiful but they’ve managed to hold things together very well. Sunday’s win at Villa was a great example of that as they dug deep in the second half and held onto their lead after a first half blitz from Barnes and Maddison.

All of this shows they are much better equipped to get over the final hurdle to finish in the top four this season.

What is standing in Leicester’s way?

Between now and the end of the season, their schedule is quite kind but then you look at the last three games and it seems pivotal: Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham.

They lost their last two games last season, at Tottenham and at home to Manchester United on the final day, as they ran out of steam with four defeats in their last seven games.

Rodgers and Leicester City look calmer, stronger and more confident they can seal Champions League qualification this season.

If that happens, it will be the story of the season (along with West Ham finishing in the top four, if they can push on). They are still big ifs, but the business end of the season is almost here. Let’s see how much Leicester have learned.