Can a Europa Conference League win Salvage Leicester City's Season?

Ben Wylie

The Story So Far

Back in August, many were predicting a big season for Leicester City, with the Foxes claiming their first FA Cup title and narrowly missing out on Champions League football for the second consecutive season in 2020/21.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case, as Brendan Rodgers's side have struggled domestically, sitting 12th in the league and crashing out the FA Cup in a shock 4-1 defeat to local rivals Nottingham Forest.

The Foxes haven’t fared much better in Europe, finishing third in an albeit tough Europa League group consisting of Spartak Moscow, Napoli, and Legia Warsaw, seeing them drop into the inaugural Europa Conference League round of 32. Leicester eased by Danish side Randers, winning the tie 7-2 on aggregate and will likely harbour aspirations of going all the way, with Rodgers knowing victory in the Conference League may determine whether he remains at the King Power Stadium next season.

Europa Conference League Outright Winners Tips

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LEICESTER CITY TO WIN THE EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE 2021/22 @ 4/1

How Big is the Conference League for Leicester, and can They Really win it?

For a competition Rodgers once claimed he’s “not sure what it is”, the irony of its significance on his season cannot go a miss, as the Northern Irishman will likely be desperate to become the trophy's first victors.

Given their domestic woes, the only real chance of European football next season for the Foxes comes from the guaranteed Europa League place for the Conference League winner, as the race for a top-six finish in England looks tighter than ever.

Rodgers can take solace in the fact his side is considered favourites for the competition, with the bookies backing Marseille, PSV Eindhoven, and Jose Mourinho’s Roma to be their main rivals.

They face Rennes in the upcoming round, who will pose a tough test as fellow Premier League side Tottenham found out in the group stages with the French outfit currently fourth in Ligue 1. On paper, Leicester perhaps boasts the strongest squad in the competition, however, a potential black mark against their name may be their inexperience of European and knockout football which could prove costly in the later rounds.

Should they progress, the Foxes will stand a real chance of lifting the cup and potentially save what has by all accounts been a poor season, which win or lose, could have cataclysmic effects for both Rodgers and Leicester's future.

To Finish Higher Than Odds

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LEICESTER CITY TO FINISH HIGHER THAN WOLVES IN THE 2021/22 PREMIER LEAGUE SEASON @ 4/1

How this could impact Leicester’s Future?

Without the offer of European football, a move to the King Power suddenly becomes a significantly less attractive prospect, especially with the likes of Wolves and West Ham on the up. Failure to lift the Conference League could see Rodgers dismissed, but also pose significant challenges for the board as they try to recruit and keep new and existing talent at the club.

Leicester has been riddled with injuries this season, with the likes of Wilfred Ndidi, Wesley Fofana, and Ricardo Pereira missing significant chunks of the campaign, so whilst an initial rebuild might be considered, really only a few squad upgrades and reinforcements are necessary. In signing Patson Daka and Boubakary Soumare last summer, the Foxes look to have secured two real talents, with the former in line to replace club legend Jamie Vardy as the Englishman slows down.

The real key for Leicester is replacing Youri Tielemans, as the Belgian has refused to sign a new deal and will have one year remaining on his current contract in the summer, meaning if Leicester wishes to recoup any of the £40 million fee paid in 2019 they will need to sell.

Tielemans has become pivotal to the side, contributing both goals and assists, and excelling in transitioning the ball up the park. With no offer of European football, Leicester would almost certainly lose their man in the summer and may struggle to attract an ideal replacement to the King Power.

Although not as pressing an issue, this same problem could occur for the likes of James Maddison, Wesley Fofana, and Patson Daka, who would all likely have numerous suitors should Leicester fail to build on their recent successes. This could spark a bigger issue at the club, as if they fail to hold onto and recruit talent like they have done astutely over recent years, they are in danger of falling behind the likes of West Ham, Wolves, and even Aston Villa as challengers to the traditional top six.

All in all, there is no shame if Rodgers and co can’t lift the Conference League, as even though it’s considered somewhat of a laughing stock amongst football, it still features well-respected European sides. For the bigger picture, the Foxes next few seasons and overall trajectory may hang in the balance of a Conference League victory, and one thing is for sure, if Rodgers really hadn’t heard of the Conference League before Christmas, we’re pretty sure he has now.


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