The five key quotes from Brendan Rodgers' pre-Stoke City press conference
Leicester City travel to the Bet365 Stadium to kick off their FA Cup campaign | Photo: Getty/ Serena Taylor

Leicester City's latest push for the trophy that eludes them begins at the Bet365 Stadium as they take on Stoke City in the FA Cup third round.

The Foxes come into the game after a hard fought victory over Newcastle United, courtesy of goals from James Maddison and Youri Tielemans.

Stoke meanwhile have hit a tough patch after only managing to win one game in six in all competitions, including a 1-0 defeat to Bournemouth in their last outing.

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers gave his thoughts to the media ahead of his side's clash with Stoke.

On the FA Cup

“I think it’s our ambition as a club. It’s never been forced on to me. We would love to be able to win a trophy. The competition is high in England. The players, I’m really happy with where we’re at. The FA Cup gives us that possibility and we’ll give everything we can. It’s not a case of resting players. You’re picking the strongest team to win the game."

No side in the FA Cup's history has appeared in more finals without winning the competition than Leicester. Defeats in 1949, 1961, 1963 and 1969 mean that the East Midlands side hold onto this unwanted record, with the ambition that this season will be the one that they finally get their hands on the famous trophy.

Rodgers has recognised the need to win the competition as he mentioned not only the ambition of the club, but the fact that he is not going into fixtures thinking of resting players, alluding that he shares that same ambition to add the FA Cup to the Foxes' trophy cabinet.

His side made it to the quarter finals last season but were knocked out by eventual finalists Chelsea, but will be hoping to make it much further this time out.

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On his opposite number

"I know Michael well. He’s a good man. I was aware of Michael in my teenage years. He had an excellent career as a player, he was very bright. He was always going to be a success. The job he did for Northern Ireland was incredible. He virtually didn’t have an office, he was starting from scratch. The achievements were brilliant. I have a huge admiration for him."

Rodgers was full of praise for his countryman ahead of the game, with Michael O'Neill seeing plenty of success with the Northern Ireland national team.

His current Stoke side find themselves in eighth position in the Championship, two points off of the play-off places. Their poor run of form as of late will have put a slight dent in their bid for a return to the Premier League and O'Neill will be hoping that they return to form sooner rather than later, with the Leicester match representing a good opportunity to do so.

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On injuries

"Ricardo is coming along really well. It’s just too soon for him this weekend. He’s back in with the squad training. Soyuncu is back and up to speed. So he has contributed and is available. Our two questions will be Vardy and Maddison. Both of those players have done well to get through these games as they have been carrying injuries. This will be an opportunity to let them recover. Both of those have not trained this week."

While Leicester's injury crisis looks to be behind them, with Ricardo Pereira being the only long-term absentee, they will be without the key players Maddison and Jamie Vardy after the pair had been playing through discomfort from respective injuries.

Rodgers added about the pair: "They’ve had issues. Jamie around his hip and groin area. And James with his knee, and because of the games, they haven’t had the rest period. We’re having to look to see where we can give them that for the longer term. This will be the weekend where they will miss out."

Instead, Rodgers will likely put his trust in the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho and Ayoze Perez to fill the gaps left by Maddison and Vardy and help the side move onto the fourth round of the competiton.

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On Demarai Gray

“While Demarai is a Leicester City player, we will always respect him and work with him to improve his game. Over the course of time, he has not played as many games as he would like. He has all the attributes. His best role is on the left hand side but it’s come with the emergence of Harvey Barnes, who has been outstanding. He’s at the age where he will want to be playing regularly. Players of that age move on from having potential. There are other players who have been ahead of him."

With Demarai Gray's contract nearly up, speculation around his future has been rife. For different reasons, his move to Leicester from Birmingham City did not work out for the young forward, who has, as Rodgers pointed out, been ousted out of the team by the form of Harvey Barnes.

There is certainly not a question mark over Gray's footballing ability, having earned himself an England call-up, but a struggle for consistency and a lack of game time has meant that if Gray wants to be in the conversation for the national team once again, he may have to leave the club in order to secure minutes on the pitch.

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On the threat of COVID-19

"Any positive tests we’ve had have been around staff mostly. We’ve been very vigilant and we have all the protocols in place. You still have to be really concentrated in it."

As the country goes into a third lockdown as positive coronavirus results rise, Rodgers shed light on how the virus has affected the club.

It has become more of a common occurrence that games have been called off due to outbreaks within clubs, with Aston Villa being the latest club to close their training ground due to an outbreak.

While the effects of the pandemic have not directly affected Leicester's first team, it has still had an effect on the club's staff meaning that, as Rodgers said in the media, the club has to remain vigilant in order to keep everyone associated with the club safe.

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