Leicester City: Brendan Rodgers targets early Europa League qualification

Leicester City play Braga in the Europa League on Thursday night knowing a win will see them qualify for the next stage; Brendan Rodgers has Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira close to fitness but unlikely to play in Portugal

It is 20 years since Leicester last operated in what is now known as the Europa League
Image: Leicester will advance to the next stage of the Europa League if they win in Braga on Thursday night

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers is setting his sights on an early qualification for the next stage of the Europa League.

The Foxes are top of Group G with three wins from as many matches after a comprehensive victory over Braga - who they play on Thursday - a fortnight ago.

Kelechi Iheanacho's double, Dennis Praet and James Maddison helped them to a 4-0 win at the King Power Stadium on November 5, and another three points in Portugal on Thursday night will ensure that Leicester, debutants in the Europa League this season, advance to the next stage.

"I've been very pleased. The group has good teams in it. Our objective starting out was to make sure we qualified," said Rodgers at his pre-match press conference.

"We want to continue that and qualify as early as we can, that would be great for us.

"You know when you play against other teams in this competition, they will be at a high level because they are used to winning.

Wilfred Ndidi and Jay Rodriguez
Image: Wilfred Ndidi has been on the sidelines since he suffered a groin injury against Burnley in September but could return next week

"Our away form has been very good, but we won't underestimate Braga, despite the result at home. We have to be ready for a tough game."

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Leicester's progression in the competition could coincide with an injury boost for Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira.

Midfielder Ndidi will miss out against Braga but he could be available for selection when the Foxes take on Zorya Luhansk next week.

The Nigeria international has been on the sidelines since he suffered a groin injury against Burnley in September.

"Ndidi is progressing well and we'll see where he is for the game in Ukraine," said Rodgers.

Portugal international right-back Ricardo has been absent since March but continued his recovery from a serious knee injury by playing 59 minutes for the development squad this week.

"Hopefully (he'll be back) very soon. He played his first competitive football for the second team on Monday, which was really, really good," the Foxes boss added.

"So over these next two to three weeks he can build up his match fitness and then hopefully very soon play in the first team."

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