Leicester City’s lone route to the Champions League is the Premier League’s top four following a moribund exit from the Europa League on Thursday.
Drab and dominated in the first leg, the Foxes allowed a pair of second-half goals to Slavia Prague in a 2-0 loss in the Round of 16.
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Leicester City entered the second leg as the tournament’s sixth-biggest favorite (+1200) to win the whole thing, according to our partner PointsBet. Slavia entered the day +15000.
Foxes manager Brendan Rodgers claimed blame for the exit, mentioning his decision to rest Harvey Barnes and move Youri Tielemans into a more attacking role in the absence of injured James Maddison.
“Youri’s clearly better when he’s deeper as he allows us to play it through to the front players,” Rodgers said. “I was trying to get the creative player in that forward position to feed Jamie (Vardy). It’s my responsibility. I pick the team to try to get the result and that clearly didn’t work as well as I would have liked.
“We’ve changed the team often enough, so we’ve had to be able to do that. The players returning from injury, they’ve been playing non-stop and we had to freshen up the team. I would expect us to do better but when you’re missing the players we are, it has an effect. There are no excuses. The best team won.”
We imagine different words were said in the team room, because this was hardly Rodgers’ fault. The manager was missing Maddison, Wesley Fofana, Dennis Praet, Ayoze Perez, and Kelechi Iheanacho for the second leg.
Over two legs, they played like a team expecting to thump their Czech opponents.
Slavia had beaten Nice, Bayer Leverkusen (twice), and Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the group stage, and were good money for their win over 180 minutes. Slavia took 21 shots to Leicester’s 19, limiting the Foxes to four shots on target.
Leicester has a six-point advantage on fifth-place Chelsea and sits 10 points back of leaders Manchester City. Rodgers’ men have a nine-point lead on seventh and 13-point advantage over eighth, though both those teams have played fewer games than Leicester.
The Premier League is the only route back to Europe for the Foxes, who are now done with the Europa League, League Cup, and FA Cup. They host Arsenal on Sunday before meeting three-straight bottom-six opponents.