Brendan Rodgers says he doesn’t know what the Europa Conference League is


Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has admitted he doesn’t even know what the Europa Conference League is after blaming ‘naivety’ and poor defending for his side’s 3-2 Europa League defeat at Naples.

The Foxes started the evening top of Group C, but finished it in third place and headed to lesser Europa Conference League competition after their loss was made worse by the 1-0 victory of the Spartak Moscow at Legia Warsaw, with the Russian club top of the standings. table in front of Naples.

Leicester will now see their European campaign resume in February, instead of March, when they face one of the eight sides that finished second in the Europa League Conference group stage for a place in the last 16 of that competition.

Asked if winning the Europa Conference League is now the priority, Rodgers told BT Sport: “I have to be honest, I don’t even know what the competition is.

“In all honesty, my focus was on the Europa League and winning that group, or at the very least finishing second, so with all due respect to the competition, I don’t know what it is. But I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough.

An end-to-end encounter saw four tie goals in the first half in Napoli, where the hosts led 2-0 thanks to strikes from Adam Ounas and Eljif Elmas.

However, Leicester responded with Jonny Evans and academy graduate Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s first goal for the club.

Elmas struck again early in the second half and, although Rodgers’ side had chances to get back up to speed – not least thanks to James Maddison immediately after Napoli’s third goal – it proved decisive.

Much of the pre-match talk centered on Leicester having to leave seven players out through illness. Rodgers confirmed that some of the anonymous players had tested positive for coronavirus, while others had been left at home as a precaution.

But it was a strong Foxes side that took to the field, which included Belgium midfielder Youri Tielemans who returned from a five-match absence with a calf problem.

On the performance, Rodgers said: “I think there’s a lot of naivety in our team, a lot of young players, and obviously there’s been a bigger demand for them this season.

“We played a number of systems and forms and individually it comes down to being able to have that mentality to follow a runner or go with a runner or stop a cross.

“But it is my responsibility to find this solution. Tonight, I felt that we were good offensively, but it’s far from enough.

“I told the players ‘if we can just tighten the gaps and do the other side of the game – do more to block shots and be more aggressive’.

“We need to do more.

“For third base you have to follow the runner and if you do that you stop the cross. These are the basics of the game that we do not master so well.

“I’m delighted for Kiernan because he came into the team and did very, very well. For people like him, it’s a new experience and playing against a very good team.

“But we gave away really cheap goals.

“We also had some great chances – the chance for James (Maddison) right after his third goal is a huge chance and we’re also disappointed with other chances, but in the end we didn’t defend well enough.”

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