Leicester City could seal their place at the top of Group G in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night as they travel to Ukraine to face FC Zorya Luhansk.
A win for the Foxes would guarantee them top spot having sealed qualification to the knockout rounds after their 3-3 draw against SC Braga last time out. Even though Braga are only three points behind Leicester, if they were to finish the group level on points the Foxes would stay top based on the head to head record having won 4-0 and drawing 3-3 against the Portuguese side.
Whilst qualification now seems unlikely for the Ukrainian side, Luhansk will take confidence into the game having gotten their first win in the group last week having beat Greek side AEK Athens convincingly 3-0.
With qualification already sealed, Brendan Rodgers has said that there will be changes ahead of the Luhansk game. Speaking to the media in the build up to the game, Rodgers confirmed that a number of first team players have been left behind in the UK in order to give other players the chance to get vital minutes under their belts. Jonny Evans, Youri Tielemans, Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel have all been left behind.
Foxes fans will be delighted to know that Caglar Soyuncu, Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira have all made the trip to Ukraine and will all feature at some point in the game after recovering from respective injuries. Timothy Castagne however, who is recovering from a hamstring injury, has not travelled and is still some way away from featuring.
Luhansk on the other hand have a fully fit squad and manager Viktor Skrypnyk will be delighted to have all his valuable assets at his disposal.
FC Zorya Luhansk: Shevchenko; Favorov, Vernydub, Cvek, Ciganiks; Kocherhin, Ivanisenya, Yurchenko; Kabayev, Hladkyy, Hromov.
Leicester City: Ward; Pereira, Fofana, Morgan, Soyuncu, Justin; Ndidi, Praet; Under, Iheanacho, Barnes.
The last meeting between the two clubs took place on matchday one of the competition at the King Power Stadium back in late October, where the Foxes came out 3-0 winners.
Goals from James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Kelechi Iheanacho got the Foxes off to a flying start in the competition and it has been pretty much plain sailing ever since, remaining unbeaten after four games.
Ones to Watch
The tricky Ukrainian winger has been key to Luhansk’s attacking force picking up a number of goals and assists already this season including a goal against Athens last time out.
The 26-year-old joined the club from Bayer 04 Leverkusen in July 2019 and has been a regular feature in the side ever since his arrival from Germany. With pace and skill in his locker expect him to try and get at the Leicester full backs throughout the game.
The Nigerian striker has never really cemented himself a spot in the Leicester starting eleven since his big money move from Manchester City back in 2017, but he was always going to struggle with Jamie Vardy being in the form of his life.
However with the fixture congestion the Foxes face now being in European competitions, Iheanacho has been given his chance to shine in the Europa League and so far he has taken his chance. Having got himself three goals and three assists, he is level with Riyad Mahrez as having the most goal involvements by a Foxes player in a European competition. Mahrez scored four goals and got two assists in the 2016-17 Champions League campaign.
Speaking on the fixture having already qualified plus bringing in players who haven’t played much Rodgers said: “It’s a game we want to win, we have already qualified but it gives us an opportunity to play some players we have coming back, but also to play some young players that we’ve brought with us but we want to win the game.”
With Ndidi, Soyuncu and Pereira all available for the game Rodgers said: “I can’t wait! The players who have been playing have been amazing. However, to have the level of player coming back especially in a defensive mind can get us performing to where we want to be.”
Captain Wes Morgan also spoke to the media ahead of the game. He said: “We secured qualification in the last round, but we want to continue the good work we’ve done so far. We’ve got an opportunity to rest some players. It’s a good opportunity for players who haven’t had a lot of game time to perform. But aim is the same, we want to win.”
Despite not playing as much this season being in the latter stages of his career, Morgan is still happy to be around the dressing room seeing the youngsters come through.
He added: “My role is still very important, even though I don’t play as much. I’m one of the elder statesmen. I get a lot of joy from the young lads coming through. I am happy to contribute any way I can, whether that’s as a sub, or filling in."
How to Watch
Coverage of the game is available in the UK on BT Sport, which gets under way at 5:30pm GMT. Kick-off follows at 5:55pm.