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Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester hampered by Covid-19 and illness ahead of Napoli game

Aston Villa v Leicester City – Premier League – Villa Park
(Image credit: Nick Potts)

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has revealed seven players and three staff members have not travelled to Italy for Thursday’s Europa League tie against Napoli.

The Foxes will progress to the last 16 as Group C winners with victory in their final pool game and could still avoid a play-off by finishing top if they draw.

Should they lose to the Serie A title challengers, their passage to the knock-out phase will hinge on the result between Legia Warsaw and Spartak Moscow.

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Rodgers told a press conference the squad that had travelled to Naples had been depleted through both positive Covid-19 cases and other illnesses.

He said: “We’ve had a number of people, staff and players, who haven’t travelled. We’ve had some positive (Covid) cases, some are generally not well, so we haven’t taken the risk.”

When asked to specify which players had been taken ill, Rodgers added: “That’s something you will see in time. We will have seven unavailable.

“It’s been (over the) last few days really. In general, you’re starting to see a few more cases and, for us, it’s always about the health of our players.

Harvey Barnes, top, gave Leicester a 2-0 lead in their home tie against Napoli, who hit back to snatch a point at the King Power Stadium

Harvey Barnes, top, gave Leicester a 2-0 lead in their home tie against Napoli, who hit back to snatch a point at the King Power Stadium (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Travelling to a foreign country, we have to respect travelling into Italy. We still have a strong squad here, but unfortunately it’s not a fully-fit squad.”

Leicester let slip a 2-0 lead and were denied victory in the home tie against Napoli in September by Victor Osimhen’s late equaliser, while their only group defeat came in Warsaw later that month.

Napoli sit third in the table after losing 2-1 in Moscow in November. Victory could see them qualify as group winners and with so many permutations it is a game they too cannot afford to lose.

Rodgers said: “We’re very comfortable, knowing we have it in our own hands. If we win, we top the group, if we don’t lose, we qualify.

Youri Tielemans has been sidelined since early November after injuring his calf at Leeds

Youri Tielemans has been sidelined since early November after injuring his calf at Leeds (Richard Sellers/PA)

“The key is to be positive in our mindset and try to win the game. They are an excellent team, but we played really well against them at home.

“The game at the weekend (a 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa), it showed we’re not too far away if we get rid of the mistakes. The team has a confidence there.”

Rodgers confirmed Youri Tielemans, out for five games with a calf injury, is back in contention and left-back Ryan Bertrand was also available.

Napoli, third in Serie A, two points behind leaders AC Milan, are bidding to rescue their season in Europe following two group defeats to Spartak Moscow.

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Boss Luciano Spalletti will be without injured star players Kalidou Koulibaly, Osimhen, Lorenzo Insigne and Fabian Ruiz.

Spalletti told a press conference: “All matches are important and decisive, but we didn’t treat them that way, that’s why we are in this situation right now.

“The difference is that this one is a really decisive one. These are the matches that show the strength of the player. This is a match where there is no second chance. It is decisive.”

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