Leicester City find themselves on the brink of history this weekend as they travel to Wembley where they will face Chelsea in the FA Cup final hoping to lift the trophy for the first time ever.
The club who shocked the world in 2016 by winning the Premier League have continued to muscle their way into the upper echelons of the division in recent years and will be hoping to punctuate this ascension with some more silverware.
Leading them out at Wembley will be manager Brendan Rodgers, who himself will be hoping to pick up a first trophy in English football.
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The cup, as well as a possible top four finish and Champions League football next season, could finally silence the doubters and firmly establish him as one of the top managers in the country right now.
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Rodgers, who began his managerial career with Saturday’s opponents as a youth and reserve team coach, came into his own at Swansea following brief spells at Watford and Reading.
Having spent his formative years travelling to Spain where he meticulously studied the game, Rodgers was able to implement a progressive passing style of football with the Welsh side that won many admirers as they were promoted to the Premier League, leading to an eventual move to Liverpool where he came agonisingly close to winning the title in 2014.
After moving north of the border to Celtic, two domestic trebles followed before a shock midseason move in 2018-19 to the King Power.
His possession based attacking game, making the most of speedy attackers, lit up Anfield during that fateful season and continued at Parkhead as the Hoops dominated Scottish football in even more clinical fashion than usual.
This has carried over to Leicester who have climbed up the table, and although they just missed out on the Champions League last season, on-field progress has been undeniable – highlighted by an emphatic 5-2 away win earlier in the campaign over Champions-elect Manchester City.
Kelechi Iheanacho of Leicester City celebrates
Image credit: Getty Images
An eye for talent
One of Rodgers’ strengths also lies in talent identification and recruitment for his style of football. At Leicester, Youri Tielemans has been a fine addition but the more under-the-radar purchases of James Justin, Timothy Castagne and Wesley Fofana have all been shrewd additions contributing to the Foxes’ lofty position, albeit for sometimes high fees, although that is part and parcel of shopping as a Premier League club these days.
This follows on from the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino who arrived at Liverpool under his watch and the free-scoring Odsonne Edouard at Celtic.
Rogers also seems to be adept at nurturing talent and getting the best out of players such as Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge during his time on Merseyside and more recently, getting Kelechi Iheanacho firing after the striker had been written off by many.
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However, questions linger over his teams’ staying power over the course of a whole season, notably due to the infamous late season collapse with Liverpool and Leicester’s failure to remain in the top four last season when it looked a certainty for so long.
Even this year, the Foxes have stuttered, and now find themselves looking over their shoulders in the final weeks of the campaign with Champions League qualification again at risk - although victory at Old Trafford in their most recent game means one win from their remaining two matches will guarantee their top four spot.
Rodgers as much as anybody is aware this is something he will want to address going forwards, but his stock remains high and having been linked to other top jobs – including Chelsea prior to the appointment of Thomas Tuchel – he has, for now, chosen to stay put and could potentially be building something special in the East Midlands.
Winning the cup would be the perfect way to kick this off.
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