Karen Carney column: ‘A defining moment for Leicester – I think they will take it’

Leicester are in very good shape, but I think the next three games will tell us a lot about them.

They play Manchester City and West Ham in the Premier League and go into the FA Cup semi-final against Southampton in third place, seven points ahead of fifth-placed West Ham.

After these three games we will know more about their mental capabilities, how far they have come and if they can finish in the top four.

All players want to play in the Champions League because it is an important event. But when you miss the mark, like Lester did last season after finishing fifth, and then finish third and in a good position for the postseason, that’s a defining moment.

Petr Cech once said to us, when I played for Chelsea: If someone opens a door, you have to walk through it and take the chance.

This is Leicester’s chance to reach the cup final and the top four. It’s a real challenge. Can they take him? I think it is.

The young players are already a year older, a little more experienced, and the older players can guide them.

But if they don’t go to the Champions League now, I think it’s a failure.

Why has Lester gotten better?

Leicester are currently in fourth place, five points ahead of Chelsea.

They have no problem reaching the top. They have struggled at times with the teams around them – a loss against Arsenal and a draw against Wolves in February was followed by a loss and a draw against Everton.

I think Leicester could go further this season.

They were missing key players through injury and that wasn’t a problem. I thought they would struggle when they lost players like James Maddison and Harvey Barnes, but they have found a way.

Brendan Rodgers brought Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho into the team and it worked. It’s important that there are other players who can contribute to the goal, not Vardy.

Rogers has also developed training, and now they can change the staff within that framework. The players on his team can play multiple positions – you can see the depth of the team coming in now.

Leicester can play with high or low pressure, they can counter, play through teams and have strength in wide areas and they can adapt well.

I think they are mentally stronger as a group than last season, but they need to dig deep and find a way. They dropped a stone last season and it cost them. They are much more resilient now, so I think they will be in the top 4.

Champions League and above

Riyad Mahrez (left), N’Golo Kante (centre) and Harry Maguire (right) have left Leicester City.

Leicester are now at the end of the season and it remains to be seen if they can get over the line.

If you had said before the season that they would be in the top 4, you probably would have said it: Wow, that’s a good result, but if they’re there, in the mix and in such a strong position right now, they can’t go back down. You have to go one step further.

If they manage to reach the Champions League, can they stay there? Leicester have sold key players every season. Harry Maguire has joined Manchester United, Riyad Mahrez has joined Manchester City and N’Golo Kante has moved to Chelsea.

To stay in the race, they need to stop selling these players. It will be interesting to see what Leicester’s business model looks like.

This will be the next test: Will Leicester be able to keep these great players or will they sell them?

Karen Carney spoke with athlete Emma Sanders. You can read his column each month on the Sports and App website.

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