Brendan Rodgers says Leicester are aiming to achieve “a result that will be heard around the world” when they take on Manchester United on Sunday with qualification for the Champions League on the line.
A Leicester win would lift them back into the top four above United, who would be left hoping Chelsea lose at home against Wolves. Rodgers believes United will go into the showdown at the King Power Stadium with more pressure.
“We want to qualify for the Champions League, they need to,” he said. “If you analyse budgets and everything else, we should actually be nowhere near the position of Manchester United. That’s the reality. This game and how it’s set up shows you how well we’ve done to be competing at that level.”
After the first half of the season Leicester looked set to reach the Champions League – they were 15 points above United on 1 January – but Rodgers says that was always an unlikely feat.
“The league is over 38 games and people were having us in the Champions League after 20 games. You have to go right the way to the end. There’ll be disappointment if we don’t make it but that would whet the appetite for next season. We were in a good position but you’ve got to sustain it. It shows the big improvement this team still has to make. But we’re still in an incredible position to arrive where we want to be and let’s give everything to achieve that.”
Leicester will again be without four players – the injured trio of James Maddison, Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira and the suspended Caglar Soyuncu. But one player they are sure to use is Jamie Vardy, who has the added incentive of chasing the Premier League’s golden boot. He has struck 23 goals in the league this season, two more than Southampton’s Danny Ings.
“The consistency he has shown, even though he was out for a period of the season as well, has been remarkable,” Rodgers said. “It’s an individual prize but he’s the guy who finishes off our great work for the team. We all want him to finish as the highest scorer, which would be a remarkable achievement considering his age and everything. He’s up there as one of the top strikers in the world.
“When we go into Europe next season, at whatever level that is, again he will be able to demonstrate that. I said when I came in he’s a world-class striker and thankfully next year he’ll have the chance to show that on the European stage.
“He’s a very serious guy. I think everyone thinks of him as this fun guy, dressed up as Spider-Man and everything else. But you don’t become a top-level striker by not being super professional. This is a guy who comes in every day and his mentality is to train and to work. There’s very few sessions he will ever miss. I love working with him.”