Europa Conference League: Will Leicester City manager Rodgers rely on Iheanacho in Rome?

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It was interesting to listen to the post-match reactions from Brendan Rodgers and Kelechi Iheanacho following Leicester City’s 3-1 loss to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

The Northern Irishman’s assessment of the leader’s performance was not analogous to the Super Eagle’s assessment, but both statements, overall, summed up the former Manchester City striker.

He scored a brilliantly taken goal but was at times guilty of losing the ball. He scored a low percentage effort, but his decision-making and execution in other situations could be questioned.

Assessing someone who is often a mixed bag for 90 minutes can be a silly race, but Rodgers’ post-loss remarks were somewhat apt.

“It was a very good shot and a very good goal,” Rodgers told the club. official site after the game. “He caused them a problem. He lost a ball or two that he can be better with, but overall he kept fighting and running. It was a very, very good goal. »

Kelechi Iheanacho

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Receiving the ball from Youri Tielemans in his prime position in the right half space, the Super Eagle, Iheanacho cut down the field, moving the ball into shooting position after cheating Harry Winks before sending a low drive beyond ‘Hugo Lloris.

“I had a shot in the first half and in the second half I took the ball pretty well, moved it around and saw the space and put it there” , concisely the striker. put after game.

Indeed, that strike was reminiscent of a few goals in a prolific 2020/21 in which the Nigerian ended the campaign as Leicester’s top scorer, ending Jamie Vardy’s streak of doing so.

Those moments of brilliance have been rare between this term, with ‘Seniorman’ having scored just four Premier League goals this season, significantly fewer than the 12 he managed in the previous campaign.

The obvious vindicating factor for Iheanacho, besides not being Rodgers’ right-hand man, was the return to a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, moving away from a line of two-front in which Iheanacho thrived. in the second half of the previous campaign.

Brendan Rodgers, Kelechi Iheanacho - Leicester City

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That said, did Sunday’s selection and formation give any strong hints to the Leicester boss’s thinking for Thursday’s decisive Europa Conference League encounter with Roma?

While the Foxes coach may have had the reverse game with Jose Mourinho’s side in mind with his heavily rotated XI – with minor injuries to James Maddison and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall causing the absence of the pair – Rodgers’ return to a back three with two up favored the leader.

Admittedly, the rationale for this change could have been to match Antonio Conte’s men and it remains to be seen whether the Leicester manager retains the formation to replicate Jose Mourinho’s approach or use a number nine with two wide forwards. either side at the Stadio Olimpico.

Either way, it’s arguable for Iheanacho to start in Rome.

Vardy remains the club’s talisman but the logic of opting for a striker unfit to carry the burden alone could have repercussions for the East Midlands side in their first European semi-final. The Englishman has just returned from a knee injury which sidelined him for over a month, getting 102 minutes in his legs since an appearance against Aston Villa.

A hamstring injury suffered at the start of 2022, which sidelined him for a month, means the 35-year-old has only played five times in the new year. Indeed, entrusting a leader in bad shape with the responsibility of scoring goals constitutes a risk.

Leicester City's Jamie Vardy and Patson Daka.

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Of course, Patson Daka remains an alternative for Rodgers, but the Zambian has looked uncomfortable during the 13-game drought and notably lacked conviction as his scuffed shot over Spurs hit the post.

Seven of the aforementioned games were also starts, but the fact that he was timid in seven of those 13 games doesn’t bode well for the 23-year-old.

Granted, Iheanacho hasn’t been pulling up any trees, but he’s arguably the logical choice to start on offense alone or alongside a partner if Rodgers opts for a front two as the Foxes chase a first European final in the league. history of the club.

“We need the same character that we have shown to get to this stage,” the manager said. mentioned before Thursday’s game. “We have experience for the second leg knowing how to get the job done.

“Rennes and PSV were tough games, two very good teams, and we were able to do that. It’s a similar mentality and a similar thought process.

Having branded their Rome assignment as the biggest game of their season, Rodgers must now trust the flawed but decisive Iheanacho in a voluble Olimpico to lead Leicester to an unprecedented final.

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