Leicester City can prioritise survival in Europe over Premier League

Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic were beaten by Salzburg in the Champions League qualifying play-off

Brendan Rodgers believes Leicester City must finish their Europa League qualification campaign before they feel they have to “make the mistake” of relegation from the Premier League.

The Foxes were knocked out of the Europa League 5-1 on aggregate by Austrian side Salzburg on Friday night.

They face Championship promotion hopefuls Cardiff in the second leg at Leicester’s King Power Stadium on Thursday before they close the season with home games against Bolton and Southampton.

“My challenge is just to have this group ready to compete against those teams,” Rodgers said.

“It’s such a difficult league. You look at some of the teams and still they are talking about the Premier League. That’s why I need to have this group right now in good shape.

“I’ll meet them tomorrow and I’ll say to them, ‘look, just put one leg in front of the other, hope we can go on and win that game and then take one more.”

Rodgers could be giving Leicester’s Portuguese manager Claude Puel the chance to pick out his own players ahead of the Championship play-off final between Cardiff and Aston Villa on Saturday week.

It was on that date that Puel’s Leicester City drew 1-1 with Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League, leaving the manager clear to name his team and start the process of bringing new signings to the King Power Stadium.

“The quality of the players from Championship play-offs is first rate,” said Rodgers. “One has to make the decision.

“It depends on what they decide. There are two sides of it, Claude and the player. There is no doubt Claude has done really well this season and he was incredible in that 1-1.

“For a new manager to come in and put some consistency, that’s something that in difficult times needs to happen.

“It’s a bonus of the players to have two weeks or so at the end of the season to get rested and rejuvenated and look forward to the Championship play-offs.”

Salzburg, who lost 3-0 at Celtic Park last week, are playing in the Champions League next season for the first time in their history, joining previous winners Benfica in the top European competition, while Rodgers’s team are returning to the Champions League after a three-year absence.

Salzburg were transformed in attack from when they last played Celtic, which prompted Rodgers to rule out repeat performances.

“I can’t help the question – how did we play last week?,” he said. “We gave them a lot of opportunities and they took them well. That’s not how you do it and we know that.”

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