Leicester have dropped into the Europa Conference League but manager Brendan Rodgers admitted he does not even know what the competition is.
The Foxes were beaten 3-2 at Napoli, and coupled with Spartak Moscow’s 1-0 win at Legia Warsaw in the other game in Group C, Leicester finished in third place.
They now face a play-off round in February to enter the Europa Conference League but Rodgers told BT Sport: “I have to be honest – I don’t even know what the competition is in all fairness. I was focused on the Europa League and winning this group.
“At the very least, finishing second so with all due respect to the competition, I’m not sure what it is. I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough.”
Leicester were condemned to Europe’s new third club competition and for the 600-odd supporters who had made the trip to Naples, they will be wondering how they managed to let a wide-open group slip away from them.
Their evening had started badly when a police escort had directed their official coaches the wrong way to the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, meaning they missed the opening 20 minutes, and things got even worse when they entered the ground upon learning their team were two goals down.
But Rodgers’ side were level by half-time and really ought to have at least come away with the point needed to seal their progress as Maddison and Vardy both passed up glaring opportunities either side of Eljif Elmas’ decisive second on the night.
“I think we’ve done that [gone back to basics],” Rodgers added. “I think there’s a lot of naivety in our team and we’ve got a lot of young players. There’s been a bigger demand from them this season, and we’ve played a number of different systems and shapes. Individually it then comes down to having that mentality to track our runner or to stop a cross.
“That can be in whatever shape it is, but it’s my responsibility to find that solution. Tonight, we were good offensively but we were nowhere good enough defensively. I said to the players [at half-time] if we could just tighten up the gaps, and do the dirty side of the game.
“We’ve got to do more to block the shot for their first goal from their first attack. We needed to be more aggressive, the second goal we jump at the wrong time and that opens up the space and for the third goal, you’ve got to track the runner and stop the cross. These are the basics of the game we aren’t doing so well.”
Moments after Elmas’ second strike, Giovanni Di Lorenzo inexplicably passed the ball across his own penalty area where James Maddison intercepted before, with the goal at his mercy, letting Napoli off the hook as his shot clipped the outside of a post and went wide.
Jamie Vardy rifled a shot into the side-netting, and five minutes later Dewsbury-Hall slipped at the vital moment as he attempted to round off a lovely Leicester attack.
“We had chances to score a third in the second half,” continued Rodgers. “James [Maddison] has a huge chance that he’ll be disappointed with and there were other opportunities but we didn’t defend well enough ultimately.
“The Newcastle game now is very important. Our offensive side of the game has been bright. We look like we can score goals but you have to defend much better than we are and we need to look to get back to having that solidity in the team in every aspect. Being hard to beat is always your basis and we have to get back to that.”
What is the Europa Conference League?
The UEFA Europa Conference League is the third UEFA club competition and runs alongside both the Champions League and Europa League.
The idea behind the Europa Conference League is to give more clubs a taste of European football, particularly sides from countries that struggle to qualify for the other two UEFA competitions. But there’s a spot up for grabs for English clubs, too.
Read in full here
All the key Europa Conference League dates
February 17 & 24 2022: Knockout round play-offs
March 10 & 17 2022: Round of 16
April 7 & 14 2022: Quarter-finals
April 28 & May 5 2022: Semi-finals
May 25 2022: Final (National Arena, Tirana)