Leicester wait in Champions League wings after 242 days in top four

Brendan Rodgers has called for perspective but knows the last day of the season is no time for nuance. If results go Leicester’s way, that will not matter: they will have secured Champions League qualification on the back of a historic FA Cup triumph, making this an unambiguously glorious campaign.

If, on the other hand, Leicester drop points to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday or do not beat them by enough to leapfrog Liverpool or Chelsea, then Rodgers’ team will finish outside the top four having been in it for 242 days until Tuesday’s defeat at Stamford Bridge. Some will tag that as failure. Certainly it would leave a bitter taste, especially after similar deflation last season. This would still represent a season of progress for Leicester, but the debate becomes trickier.

Before that, the permutations for the final day must be appraised. Ideally for Leicester, one of Liverpool and Chelsea will slip up, meaning any win would do for Rodgers’ team. If Liverpool and Chelsea win, Leicester could still pip Jürgen Klopp’s team to the Champions League by thrashing Spurs by at least five goals more than Liverpool beat Crystal Palace by. Unlikely, but Rodgers says Leicester will be monitoring proceedings to make sure they know exactly what they must do.

First and foremost, they must keep their cool. That is a lesson Rodgers learned from his time in charge at Liverpool. When asked about the potential for needing to score a hatful against Spurs, he alluded to 2014, when Liverpool became so intent on adding to a 3-0 lead at Crystal Palace that they grew ragged and wound up drawing 3-3, a ruinous result for their title ambitions.

“We’ll talk about the different situations that may arise but you can’t overcomplicate it,” said Rodgers. “If there is a point in the game where, say, we need a goal, then of course we would want to have something in place for that. However, I’ve had an experience before where we get too emotional in a game and you think you can chase goals and it can go against you.

“The key is to win the game. Get the three points. Tottenham isn’t a team that you can take a massive risk with by opening up your whole team and think you’ll get away with it. Just be professional and stay focused. And if there is a moment in the game where we need to really push for another goal, then we’ll be aware of that scenario.”

Rodgers does not doubt there could be a late twist in this singular season. “I don’t think it is over yet and I have that optimism and belief. Of course we’ll be really disappointed if we don’t do it, but we will fight to the very end. Let’s see what Chelsea and Liverpool do.”

When Rodgers says he wants his team to fight to the end, he does not mean it literally, although he says he was proud of the way his players refused to be pushed around by Chelsea on Tuesday. Both clubs have been charged by the Football Association after players from both sides squared up following tackles by Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell, and a confrontation between Daniel Amartey and several Chelsea players.

“OK, we are maybe little Leicester City but we are not going to turn up and roll over for anyone,” Rodgers said. “So I was proud of the team that we stand up and fight and showed that mentality because that is what it takes to be a top team. We were united and together. We saw teammates getting pushed and the players stood up to that. Of course it is not what you want to see but I want my players to stick together on the field and we did that.”