By Carl Markham, PA
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers is confident his players will bounce back quickly from their Anfield penalty shoot-out heartbreak to meet the considerable challenge of facing Premier League leaders Manchester City.
The Foxes twice conceded a two-goal lead in the midweek Carabao Cup quarter-final against Liverpool – including an equaliser deep into added time – and then lost on spot-kicks.
More injuries were sustained in the process – striker Jamie Vardy played the last 20 minutes with a tight hamstring while defenders Caglar Soyuncu and Ricardo Pereira were forced off – which does not make their task any easier on Boxing Day.
Leicester have a decent recent record against City, with two wins in the last four meetings, but Pep Guardiola’s side look a different prospect this season.
“There is always disappointment but I said before the game ‘You are coming to Anfield, a great place to play, and whatever happens let’s impose our way’,” said Rodgers.
“That’s what I’ve always had from these players. They have been competitive against the best teams in the country and we saw that, we just couldn’t do enough to get over the line.
“They are such an honest bunch of players and it is always disappointing when you lose but I’ll get them going again.
“They (City) are playing well at the minute, so we will just have to see where we are at and then devise a plan with the players available and see what we can do.
“It doesn’t look like there are too many (City) players out, they’ve had a free week without a midweek game. They are a brilliant side with technical players, world-class players, and they are used to winning.
“We’ve done OK against them but it’s going to be a big challenge for us and we need to play with the spirit we played with against Liverpool.”
Their last two wins were in the Community Shield in August and a remarkable 5-2 victory at the Etihad in September 2020.
However, City are on an eight-match winning run in the league and have failed to win only one of the last 11.
“I think you see from the game at Liverpool we can score goals, we are creative, but we have to see what we have available at the weekend and we will try to come up with a plan to get a result,” Rodgers added.
“We went there last season and got a fantastic win. You know the challenge you are up against: they will dominate the ball and are good in transition and have the confidence to play so that’s the challenge at the weekend.
“They have top players, not too many injuries. They can rotate and change and they are playing their game, a high-level positioning game. They are virtually press-resistant, they can play through pressure and when you sit deep they have players of real intelligence to find spaces.
“You have to play with courage, and when you have the ball you have to exploit the spaces.”
A player who will be key to that is James Maddison, who is enjoying a run of five goals in his last seven appearances – the latest of which was a brilliant dipping strike against Liverpool.
“He is a real threat and to score at the Kop end a goal of that quality he will always remember that, a great strike,” said Rodgers.
“He is starting to get back to the levels and producing, which is what he has to do: create goals, score goals, work hard, and he is doing all of that.”